No matter what the cause or how prepared you are, the death of someone close to you is difficult to overcome. Grief is nature’s way of protecting us against loss. The grief process can begin with the news that someone close to you is seriously ill. For others, however, grieving begins with a sudden unexpected death. Whatever the circumstance, by allowing yourself to grieve you can deal with the loss in a healthy manner and grow stronger in the process. When dealing with an impending or actual loss of someone close, you may have the following reactions:
- A resurfacing of psychological problems.
- Sadness – Lack of motivation and interest in usual activities.
- Guilt Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
- Renewed sadness related to a past loss.
- A need to talk and stay focused on recounting events that lead up to the death.
Behaviors such as sleeping a lot, compulsive buying and drinking are common defense mechanisms that prevent you from facing the reality of the situation. Denial often occurs when the truth is too painful to deal with. Denial can be a healthy form of protection that gives us time to adjust to the reality. However, you can’t stay in denial forever.
You must accept the loss before you can begin the healing process. The stages of grief include shock, denial, guilt, anger, depression, acceptance, working through the pain, integration and developing new strengths.
Each individual’s grieving process is different. People experience a range of emotions at varying times. Special occasions such as holidays, birthdays and anniversaries may bring back feelings of mourning.
Grieving allows us to experience the pain and begin to overcome it by crying, talking about it or writing it down. Just as a physical wound needs time to heal, recognize that the emotional recovery from a death also takes time. It may seem cliche, but time actually does heal.
Here are some suggestions to help you deal with the news of a life threatening illness or a death of someone close to you:
- Expect a range of emotional responses – this is normal.
- Forgive yourself for what you did or didn’t do.
- Be available to talk to others who share in your grief – it can be beneficial to all.
- Cry when you feel like crying and scream when you feel like screaming.
- Seek help from friends or professionals – you don’t have to go through it alone.