Grief. Such a hard thing to deal with when it comes in our lifetime. Unfortunately, it is not something we can avoid in this life because it is part of life.
Grief is one of those things that we may not be able to predict how we will experience it. Some experience grief with an initial shock factor that leaves them feeling as if they are going through the motions or almost like an out of body experience, while others may feel intense sadness. No two people are exactly alike. However, what is the same is that everyone must process their grief.
So how do we even start to process!?
Well, the truth is, you will have no idea how you will react to the loss of a loved one when the time comes or even grieving the loss of a friendship. For this reason, there is not a clear road map to getting past grief before you enter grief. However, you can be prepared for grief. To do this, you should at least know what the stages of grief are before we start introducing coping skills.
The five classic stages of grief are:
- Denial (or Shock)
Some countries have actually taken this and broken it down a bit more. One of my favorites is from Australia:
- Shock and denial
- Pain and guilt
- Anger and bargaining
- Depression, reflection, loneliness
- The upward turn
- Acceptance and hope
- Reconstruction and working through
I love this one because it explains the cycle a bit more in full detail.
Time for the second truth about grief. You may not actually experience every stage! Yes! You can skip whole stages if not most of them.
Now how do we go through grief without staying in that state for years? That is where things get a bit muddy. As I stated earlier everyone is different so processing grief will differ as well. There are a few things that as a counselor I always recommend to those grieving because it can help the individual process grief in a way that is best for them. Here are those things:
- Do Not ISOLATE! This one normally goes across the board with individuals experiencing grief. The reason for this is because humans are social creatures even if we are naturally shy. Socializing not only gets your mind off of the pain but it allows us to remember that we are not alone in this world.
- Have a confidant. Socializing is great and helpful but having one or two people that you can share your feelings with and what your thoughts are, is just as important. Part of processing grief is not holding all those feelings within ourselves but letting them out and learning when sometimes thoughts are not realistic.
- Acknowledge that your thoughts may be unrealistic at times. This is not always easy for us to do because our feelings are very real and are heavily connected to thought patterns. For example: if an individual feels guilty for not being present in the loved one’s life as much as they think they should have, a counselor or close individual may point out that being with an individual all the time can be impossible if we are to take care of responsibilities. The guilt is a very real feeling, but the thoughts can become unrealistic and come out of balance. Acknowledging this can and making active steps to correct your unrealistic thought is vital to processing grief.
- Honor the loved one and celebrate the life that was lived. This one sounds odd to people at times because joy and grief do not normally go hand in hand. Celebrating the life of the individual allows people to focus on what was positive about the individual and how they affected the lives of those around them. I remember being at a funeral for a dear friend of my family and laughing more than I ever have at a funeral. Not because we were being disrespectful but because the stories being told were truly a reflection of how humble and comedic that friend was. She always knew how to make people smile, and she enjoyed doing it. It was honoring to her and her family for her to bring one final smile to lives of those in attendance that day.
- Get a counselor! If you or a loved one being to find yourself in a state of depression that goes beyond normal sadness for longer than a couple weeks or start to have thoughts of suicide do NOT hesitate to get professional help. Though not all fall into the depression stage it is far from uncommon especially if the loved one lost passed due to tragedy.
- Join a group. There are actually counseling groups that are designed for grieving. These are helpful to those that lose loved ones because it allows individuals to connect with others that understand them and have a counselor present to help guide them through the process. (please understand that not all people need to join a group, but it can be very helpful to those that feel intense sadness or anger)
- Speak to the Lord. Prayer is a very powerful It is basically having a conversation with Jesus. Jesus was the ultimate counselor and one that was well ahead of the time He walked the earth.
For many, the hardest part actually falls under the category of finding a new normal. This is where the individual is continuously exposed to reminders of the person that has passed. This is where having your friends and loved ones around can be helpful. For some, this process means removing items from the house that belonged to the loved one that is no longer able to be used. For a close friend of my family, that meant giving away his wife’s clothes and hundreds of handbags. He took this chance as a way of honoring his wife by blessing others with items that he knew his wife would want them to have.
It all sounds so simple when on paper but please remember that feelings and thoughts during this time are genuine. Those grieving do not seek pity but rather comfort.
To those that read this that are grieving, I am sorry for your loss and hope you find peace in this time of grieving.
This article was written by Damara L. Mora, PLPC of Shreveport, LA. She is a counselor and she runs a blog called CoffeeTalk318. If you’d like to learn more about CoffeeTalk318 then click the image below!