If you are reading this article, it is likely that you recently experienced a loss or feel you will soon. We know this is a difficult time for you and we hope the information you find here will help you get through this period.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT GRIEF
by Victor Parachin
HOW LONG DOES GRIEF LAST?
Because every griever is a unique personality, there is no single answer to this question. In most cases, the pain associated with grieving begins to subside considerably in the second and third years following loss. The heavy, depressive feelings in earlier months begin to break up with more hopeful optimistic feelings.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF GRIEF?
On the emotional level, the bereaved experience some of the following: disbelief, shock, numbness, denial, sadness, anxiety, guilt, depression, anger, loneliness or frustration. The physical symptoms of grief include tightness of the chest or throat, pain in the heart area, panic attacks, dizziness or trembling. Grievers also report sleep disturbance, as in either too much or not enough sleeping.
WILL I EVER STOP CRYING?
Even though it may be difficult to believe, the tears will come to an end. This will not happen abruptly but gradually, and even after the intense crying ceases, there may be times when hearing a song or seeing a place can bring a moment of sadness along with a tear.
DO PEOPLE GRIEVE THE SAME?
While many aspects of grieving are universal, (feelings of sadness, numbness, confusion, depression), there is no single prescribed way to grieve. Grieving is an individual endeavor. Some want to have many people around with whom they can share and explore their feelings. Others prefer to deal with loss more privately. Most people report that grieving is much like being on an emotional roller coaster.
DO MEN AND WOMEN GRIEVE DIFFERENTLY?
The cultural stereotypes of women and men in grief are inaccurate. Generally, they portray women as being expressive with their grief while men are the “strong and silent” type. The reality is that some men need and want to express and share their feelings, while some women prefer to do their grief work in a more low-key way.
WHAT HELPS GRIEVING?
• Seek out supportive people. Find a relative, friend, neighbor or spiritual leader who will listen non- judgmentally and provide you with support as you sort your way through grief.
• Join a support group. Being with others who have had a similar loss is therapeutic. Express your feelings. Do this by confiding in a trusted friend or by writing in a journal.
• Take care of your health. Eat balanced, nutritious meals. Rest properly. Find an exercise you enjoy and do it regularly. If you have physical problems, consult with your physician promptly.
• Find outside help when necessary. If your bereavement feels too heavy for you to bear, find a counselor or therapist trained in grief issues to offer you some guidance.
WHEN IF MOURNING FINISHED?
When these “4 Tasks” of grieving are completed.
• To accept the reality of the loss
• To adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing
• To experience the pain of the grief
• To withdraw emotional energy and reinvest it in a new relationship
HOW TO HELP A GRIEVING PERSON
Listening to grieving people is the most important thing you can do. Listen in a non-judging way, and allow them to tell their stories over and over if they need to.
Share your memories of the loved one, too. Reflect on the feelings they are experiencing – but as you share, be careful not to start one-upping their feelings, or comparing your loss to theirs. And don’t say “I know exactly how you feel.” It’s usually much more helpful to say something along the lines of “I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now,” because most grieving people feel like no one else could know what they are experiencing.
Each person recovers from grief at his or her own pace. Some can recover quickly, while others can take a full year or more (this will also depend on the severity of the loss). Be careful not to impose a time limit or tell people to get over it and move on – feeling that they’ve grieved too long can cause people to suppress their feelings, and slow or stop the healing process.
Remember that there’s no definitive way to experience grief. Understand that the grieving person will always feel the loss, but that he or she will learn to live with it over time.
It may sound strange to talk about celebrating, but it can help grieving people heal. Help them celebrate the life of the loved one they’ve lost. Help them develop rituals they need to get through the difficult early stages of the grieving process.
Sometimes grieving people can go to extremes, if you notice signs of suicidal behavior or fear they may harm themselves or others, refer them to a mental health professional.
Victor M. Parachin, Tulsa, OK, is a NFDA grief educator and minister.
This article originally appeared in the August 2001 issue of The Director, the official publication of NFDA.