With the arrival of spring, I am reminded how quickly the world around us can change. When you lose someone close to you, your life changes immediately. The feelings of grief and bereavement you experience can be devastating and frightening. Grief is an individual process one must learn to cope with in his or her own way.
According to “Moving Through the Stages of Grief” (www.emedicinehealth.com), there are four basic stages of grief: shock/disbelief, awareness, depression, and reconciliation and acceptance.
During the shock stage a person may experience numbness, denial, disbelief and some confusion. One may appear to intellectualize the loss rather than express one’s feelings.
As the shock wears off, the person moves into the awareness stage. This stage generally occurs two to four weeks after the death of a loved one. It takes time to fully absorb the impact of a major loss. Symptoms may include anger, fear and guilt.
Experiencing symptoms of depression also is 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. Healing takes time. 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 that not all people are able to tolerate the expression of painful feelings; choose a listener wisely. You may want to speak to a member of clergy, grief companion or spiritual director.
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. Consider contacting the following individuals for support and counseling: family physician, 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 and Koch Funeral Home will sponsor a free eight-session grief and bereavement support group beginning April 9 at The Village at Penn State. 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.