The Journey of Grief

Much as you may want to do so, there is no way to avoid this grief of yours. You cannot wait it out, you won’t get over it quickly, and nobody can do it for you.

It’s called grief work because finding your way through grief is hard work, and if you put it off, like a messy chore, it will sit there waiting to be done. And the longer it waits, the harder it becomes.

A great deal of emphasis is put on the “Stages of Grief”; I do not support this emphasis. I believe we should concentrate on how it may affect your ability to function every hour of every day. It is not a sequential process of stages: once you finish with stage 1, you move on to 2. It feels a lot more like one step forward and two steps back…it is an emotional roller coaster.

Physically

Our bodies grieve. Your heart may actually ache, your head hurt. Your stomach may feel upset or ache. You may have difficulty sleeping. You will have difficulty concentrating. You will feel exhausted. All are common to grievers. If you are worried at all about your health, please see your doctor.

Emotionally

We have all sorts of feelings that hit us like waves – sorrow, anger, emptiness, anxiety, pain, guilt, profound loss. Accept them, they are neither good or bad…they just are. They are likely to hit you unannounced when you least accept them. Know that they will not last forever…you can and will handle them. Emotional distress is often displayed by crying/tears/eyes welling up with water, “a lump in your throat”, an inability to talk…these very obvious physical signs. What about those who don’t display their grief/distress outwardly – those who are not seen to cry, those who hold their grief inside? Unfortunately, we are quick to assume their grief is finished…when it may be just beginning.

Mentally

Sometimes, it is all we can think about. Grief can play with your mind. You may go over and over things in your head. Decisions seem so difficult to make. You forget things. You read the same sentence over and over. You act differently and can’t work out why.

Spiritually

Some people feel they could never get through grief without faith. Others say death destroyed their faith. Your spirit will search and yearn, your heart will ache. For some this can be a time of spiritual growth.

There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief. Aeschyulus

The worst kind of grief is the grief you’re experiencing now. Don’t compare your grief with anyone else’s, and know that, at this moment, your loss is the worst thing that could happen to anyone.

Acknowledge that your loss is worthy of grief, and accept that you must endure the very real feeling of sorrow.

Grief is a normal and natural, though often deeply painful, response to loss. Everyone experiences loss and grief at some time. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be.

While the pain of loss diminishes in intensity over time, it’s never gone completely. It is absolutely normal to feel the aftershock of loss for the rest of your life.

Grieving is like a deep wound that eventually heals and closes, but whose terrible scar remains with you forever. From time to time, it still causes pain.

Death may have ended your loved one’s life, but it did not end your relationship. The bond you have will continue and endure throughout your lifetime, depending on how you take your memories and your past with you into the future.

The pain of the heart is far worse than the pain of the body. For it only takes but a short time for the body to heal, the heart can take a lifetime. Angela Miranda

Remember that life will never again be exactly the way it was before your loved one died.

If you are expecting things to “get back to normal” after awhile, you may be disappointed to find that the new “normal” is not like the old “normal”.

You life will go on, but precisely because the person was important to you – it will not be the same without him or her.

In the beginning, it will seem as if your grief is running you, but in the end, you can learn to run your grief. When you understand what is happening to you and have some idea of what to expect, you will feel more in control of your grief and will be in a better position to take care of yourself, to find your own way through this loss, and to begin rebuilding your life.

It is perfectly natural to need time and space to honor your feelings, and the memory of your loved one. It is also normal for significant dates, holidays, or other reminders to trigger feelings related to the loss.

It is not unusual for the painful emotions of your bereavement to make others feel extremely uncomfortable…to the point of feeling profoundly helpless. Unfortunately, this may leave you feeling isolated and lonely.

Your family and friends care about you, and are likely to offer advice about what they think is best for the grieving process. Listen to all the well-meaning advice given to you but this is your grief, it is your pain. No one other than you can work through your grief.

It is incredibly important that you:

Do what you want to do!

Do what feels right and most comfortable for you.

by Sr. Teresa McIntyre, C.S.J.