by Susan Bachorik, MS, Bereavement Counselor
When we are grieving, interest in the outside world subsides, we slow down, sleep more and sometimes our social activities seem less meaningful. We may identify we need more time alone. We may think we need to keep busy. We eat too much or don’t eat enough. This is grief. Your friends can’t feel your loss in the same way you do. As they try to help, they may say things that are helpful, or sometimes they say things that are hurtful. You may resent them for that. You may avoid your friends because you don’t want to discuss your loss, as it is too painful. Do not give up on friends and family, because they do care and want to support you. Try not to avoid social situations because they can and will help in time. You need to take baby steps to slowly transition to the life you now have. Reach out to someone who does understand your grief and can help you get through the first few difficult months.
Ultimately, you must reconcile what has happened. Facing the reality of your loss is the hardest step in grief. It can take a long time to accept this reality. Even though you know your loved one has died, you just cannot believe it. Most people do all they can to avoid experiencing their feelings or situations. Many fear that if they face their suffering, it will make them feel helpless, vulnerable, and the pain will be unbearable. This is not necessarily true.
When these feelings are not resisted, the healing process begins. Not everyone will feel the same intensity of pain when their loved one dies. Do not compare your grief to anyone else’s. The path of your grief may be intense pain, and yet others may not feel the same as you. Most individuals are not prepared to feel this intense pain and do not know how to handle it. J. William Worden, a well-known researcher in the field of grief, identifies four “Tasks of Grief”. Mr. Worden suggests acceptance of the reality of the loss is the 1st Task. Through acceptance of reality, one develops the power to affirm life and to grow. The pain is still there, but working through the pain and grief over time allows it to become more manageable, which Mr. Worden indicates is the 2nd Task. Task 3 is learning to adjust to a world without the deceased. In other words, we learn to incorporate our loss in our daily life. One can then give to others, become a source of inspiration and live a life that is meaningful. Task 4 is finding an enduring connection with our loved one as we embark on a new life. The discovery and experience of value and meaning in one’s life, and one’s losses, is the most potent healing of all.
It is helpful to realize that all of life is temporary. Possessions, situations, and people are given to us for a short time. As we acknowledge the transitory nature of life, we can then begin to look deeper and see what it is that we never lose. Someone once said to me “Be grateful for what you did have in life and do not look at what you don’t have.” It is a reminder to be grateful for the experiences and memories this person gave and was a part of one’s life. By opening up to gratitude, we can learn to grow from loss, so one day we can share our life with others and they too can say, “I am so grateful this person was in my life.”