Fall has arrived and with the change of the seasons, it can be a difficult time for anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one. Feelings of grief can be devastating and frightening. Grief is a natural response to loss and a very personal and individual experience. How we grieve can be dependent on many factors including ones ability to cope, life experiences, faith and the type of loss being experienced.
According to Moving Through the Stages of Grief (www.emedicinehealth.com), there are four basic stages of grief: shock/disbelief, awareness, depression and reconciliation/acceptance. During the shock stage a person may experience numbness, denial, disbelief and some confusion. One may appear to intellectualize the loss rather then express ones feelings. As the shock wears off, the person moves into the awareness stage. This stage can occur two to four weeks after the death of a loved one and generally lasts three to four months. It takes time to fully absorb the impact of a major loss and symptoms may include anger, fear and guilt. Experiencing symptoms of depression is also a normal part of the grieving process and is a psychological expression of grief. Grief is likely to be expressed physically (weight loss/ difficulty sleeping/loss of appetite), emotionally (difficulty making decisions) and psychologically (depression/anxiety).
After that first year, reconciliation and acceptance will begin to occur. It is important to remember that healing takes time and there is no normal time frame for grieving. The best thing you can do is be patient with and kind to yourself. Take care of yourself, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, stay with a daily routine, and seek out caring people who will allow you to express your grief and talk about your loved one. Remember, not all people are able to tolerate the expression of painful feelings; choose a listener wisely.
If you have continued difficulty sleeping, substantial weight loss or weight gain, prolonged emotional stress or are overcome with thoughts of suicide, help is available. The following individuals can be contacted for support and counseling: your family physician, minister, grief counselor, social worker, psychologist or mental health professional.
Attending a support group can be beneficial as well. Support groups serve a unique function. You learn you are not alone, that the grieving process is normal and you can learn and share what helps with others.
The Village at Penn State Life Care Retirement Community will sponsor an eight-week, grief and bereavement support group from 3:30-5 p.m. starting Oct. 1. Anyone who has lost a spouse or significant other is welcome. Come and learn about living and coping after the loss of a loved one. Call Amy Evans at 238-1949 if you are interested in attending.
Brenda Oyler Kim is a licensed clinical social worker.