Losing a family member or someone close to us can be one of the hardest things we go through. Many of us have either someone close to us pass or know someone that has. We want answers and conformation that they are safe and at peace. In searching for that, we don’t give ourselves the time to go through the grief process.
Grief: a multifaceted response to a loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has passed to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions
Grief is a natural response to loss. I have seen and have been one of the people that jump right in to trying to make contact with those that have passed or are looking for proof of their afterlife existence. It is extremely important that we allow ourselves the time to go through the process of grieving. There is no right or wrong way to grieve but many of us go through different stages.
1. Denial and Isolation
The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.
As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. Anger may be directed at our dying or deceased loved one. Rationally, we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry.
The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control. This is where the what ifs come in. Most of us have done this to ourselves at one time or another. What if we got them medical attention sooner? What if we got another opinion? What if I was a better person to them? Secretly, we may try and make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is the weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality.
Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry about if they are at peace and well. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with the others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple reassurance and clarification. A little cooperation and a few kinds words can really be of help. The second type is more subtle and in a sense more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved ones farewell.
Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. Loved ones that are terminally ill or aging appear to go through a final period of withdrawal. Their behavior implies that it is natural to reach a stage at which social interaction is limited. The dignity and grace shown by our loved ones at this time may be their last gift to us.
Coping with loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience. Nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you are going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through the process. The best thing you can do for your well-being is to allow yourself the time to feel and go through process. Resisting it will only prolong the natural process of healing.