Facts About Grief
- Grief is an unavoidable process which must be experienced on the road to recovery.
- Grief is cumulative.
- Verbalization speeds the grieving process.
- Grieving people do not need advice or questions.
- Each person tends to experience five distinct stages when grieving any major loss and tends to drift in and out of these stages for an indefinite period of time.
- The quiet, reassuring presence of a friend can be helpful as each stage of grief is being experienced.
- People usually die in character, in the way that they have lived.
- Uncomplicated grief can be lengthy and intense.
- The length and intensity of grief depend upon variables which are somewhat predictable.
- There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
1) SHOCK AND DENIAL
The real and the unreal collide. One commonly feels that one cannot believe the person is gone. Shock and denial make it possible for us to go on with the business of living. It’s protection for the body.
People may think they’re going crazy. They lose or misplace things and cannot remember names. This is a protection for the mind. (This is not a good time to make decisions to sell your home, accept another job, or move away).
The bereaved one is angry at the doctors, hospital, the car in the accident, or the person who left you alone by dying. This reaction is followed by volatile emotions that cause one to go from laughing one minute to sobbing the next. One feels as though he is on a roller coaster.
This is the time when we say to ourselves, “If only I had gotten the person to the hospital sooner,” or, “If only I had been a better wife/husband.” We think the loss of the person is our fault.
5) PERIODS OF DEPRESSION
Holidays, anniversaries, and Christmas are especially bad.
6) PERIOD OF RELIEF
A person realizes he/she is feeling better and begins to think he/she will pull through.
7) FEELING OF RESOLUTION
A person is ready to return to the old world with new energy. The person begins to move on with life without thinking of the loss every waking moment. He/she begins to re-establish old relationships and contacts.
GRIEF NEVER GOES AWAY ENTIRELY, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE TO GET TO THE PLACE WHERE THE PAIN IS BEARABLE. There may be times when the person swings back to the steps that he has experienced before, but each time this occurs it should be just a little easier to cope.
It is important to follow the steps all the way through. The coping has to begin sooner or later. A person can’t just put it out of his mind and refuse to hurt or think about it. Eventually, it will catch up with him. It may be years later, but he/she will have to follow the grief process to get back to normal.
Elements of Healing
- Try to remember, try not to forget.
- Good memories (I remember when....stories) are important.
- Time can result in either healing or infection.
- You need support from both inside and outside your family.
- Faith-Prayer-Community of Faith; where would you turn without them?
- Learning about the experience of others gives you insight into your own story.
- Assume whatever you are going through is normal.
- Share the pain of your darkness.
- Be sensitive to the fact that people grieve differently.
- Sharing with those who have been there has a special meaning.
- Feel free to protest “why” of death.
- Take time and space yourself and work through your guilt over doing so.
- Take time to laugh and cry.
- Take the initiative and make things happen for yourself; work, activity, exercise.
- Life will never be like it was. You will need to create a new life, make new choices, and develop new friendships
- Reach out and help others. Beware of dwelling on self.
- Confront guilt by realizing you did the best you could. (“All things considered, with no rehearsal for what you went through, you did the best you could.”)
- Be grateful if you experience a good death.
- You must let go of your loved one(s).
- Through dreams, visions and other means, it is possible to experience the comforting and reassuring presence of your loved one(s). Don’t be afraid to ask God for some sign of your loved one(s) presence.
- There is nothing wrong with talking to the dead.
- Persons who have been down the road before can be symbols of hope.
- Your experience of death may cause others to make significant changes for the better in their lives and relationships.
Helpful Hints Especially for the Widowed Person
In most cases, it is not a good idea to make any major changes for at least a year after the death has occurred. Unless it’s necessary, don’t put your house up for sale or move to another town. You’ll need the support of your friends more than ever now. You might want to leave town for short periods to visit family and friends. Be careful about running too fast and too far. In time, you’ll probably realize you find contentment in familiar surroundings.
Many widowed persons have found that it helps to sleep on their spouse’s side of the bed. Try it and see.
TALK! The more you share your loss with others, the more you’ll help yourself. Good grieving is active grieving. Tell your story over and over again to all who will listen. You can’t talk too much about your loved one in the first six months.
CRY! Tears are healing. Tears of grief have a toxic enzyme in them which needs to be released. Don’t hold them in. If you don’t feel comfortable crying in public, find a time to do it in private. Allow yourself that time to grieve. Many people look at picture albums, play music or do something else that helps to make the tears flow freely.
Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat nutritional meals, get enough sleep and exercise. Exercise is not only for your physical self, it’s a must for your emotional well-being.
Do you have good locks on your doors and windows? You may find that by adding outdoor lighting or other security features, you’ll sleep better.
Many people in grief find that their sleep patterns change. A common complaint is awakening around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. If this happens to you, take this time to write down your thoughts. Getting them out of your mind and on paper should make it easier for you to fall asleep.
DON’T LET OTHERS TAKE YOUR GRIEF AWAY! Some may try. It’s O.K. to be a little selfish. Allow yourself to take care of yourself before you take care of others.
Learn to let things go. You can’t do everything your spouse did. This is your grieving time - use it. Grief is exhausting. Expect that you’ll be capable of doing less, not more, for now.
Seek out support. Rely on those friends who are supportive and search out new friends who understand. Find a support group and commit to attend it regularly.
Realize that you never get over your grief, but you will learn to accept the loss. You will eventually remember that person without the anger and emotions you may now feel.
How to Help a Grieving Friend or Relative
(When your family and friends ask how they can help, give this to them)
1) Don’t worry about what to say. Simply being there shows you care. Don’t feel you have to have answers; just be a good listener.
2) Talk about the deceased - anything you know about them, such as what they said or did. It helps grieving persons to keep them closer.
3) Call often, especially after the first couple of months. Their energy level may be took low for them to make the effort even though they may need to talk.
4) Send cards even weeks after the funeral. They are always helpful, and there is a disappointment when they finally quit coming.
5) Do visit the home after the funeral service is over, but stay just a short while. Those grieving need some privacy.
6) If you want to do something with or for the bereaved, give him or her an option. Some days they just can’t cope with “something to do.”
7) Don’t avoid the person when you see them for the first time after the funeral. Go up to them first.
8) Try not to look startled when the bereaved mentions the deceased. Let him or her talk about the deceased loved one as much as they like.
9) Don’t try to get the mind of the griever off of the loved one. That is impossible for a long time if the relationship was close. Remember, the hardest thing for the bereaved is to see life going on.
10) Don’t make small talk. Talk about what is uppermost in the griever’s mind.
11) Don’t be uneasy if you cry and the bereaved doesn’t. A person can only cry so much. The hurt is still there.
12) Don’t talk about what the deceased might have been spared by death. Those thoughts bring no comfort.
13) Don’t remind the person of what they have left, such as other children. At that time all the bereaved can think of is what he or she has lost and the feeling that there is no future. The deeply grieved does not want to think about tomorrow.
14) Things you could do to be helpful: grocery shop, go to the library, harvest the garden, mow the lawn, prepare a meal, baby-sit, or clean house for them.
15) If they have children, invite them to spend time with your children. If the children have lost their father, it would be wonderful if another man would spend some time with them also. He could include them occasionally when he does something with his own kids.
16) Don’t assume the deeply bereaved is “over it” in just a few weeks or even months because they are going on with routine. Grief takes much longer and people can pretend to be doing much better than they are really doing. Shared your love, your time and most importantly, your prayers.
Children and Grief
When a family member dies, children react differently from adults. Preschool children usually see death as temporary and reversible - a belief reinforced by cartoon characters that “die” and “come to life” again. Children between five and nine begin to think more like adults about death, yet they still believe it will never happen to them or anyone they know.
Adding to a child’s shock and confusion at the death of a brother, sister, or parent is the unavailability of other family members, who may be so shaken by grief that they are not able to cope with the normal responsibility of child care.
Parents should be aware of normal childhood responses to a death in the family, as well as danger signals. During the weeks following the death, it is normal for some children to feel little immediate grief or persist in the belief that the family member is still alive. But long-term denial of the death or avoidance of grief is unhealthy and can later surface in more severe problems.
A child who is frightened about attending a funeral should not be forced to go; however, some service or observance is recommended, such as lighting a candle, saying a prayer, or visiting the gravesite.
Once children accept the death, they are likely to display their feelings of sadness on and off over a long period of time and often at unexpected moments. The surviving relatives should spend as much time as possible with the child, making it clear that the child has permission to show his or her feelings openly and freely.
The child has lost someone who is essential to the stability of his or her world and anger is a natural reaction. The anger may be revealed in boisterous play, nightmares, irritability or a variety of other behaviors such as soiling. Often the child will show anger toward the surviving family members. After a parent dies, many children will act younger than they are. The child may temporarily become more infantile, demanding food, attention and cuddling, and talking “baby talk.”
Younger children believe they are the cause of what happens around them. A young child may believe a parent, grandparent, brother, or sister died because he or she had once “wished” the person dead. The child feels guilty because the wish “came true.”
Do’s and Don’ts in Talking with Your Children about Death
DON’T say the person “went away.” The child may feel abandoned or think he or she did something wrong and is no longer loved.
DON’T say death is the same as sleep. The child might become afraid of going to sleep himself.
DON’T say that being sick causes death. Even if a sickness did lead to the death, you must be very careful to explain the difference between a fatal illness and a simple one which can be treated and cured.
DO let a child attend the funeral or other services if he wants to. Children should be allowed to express their grief with other members of the family. Seeing that everyone feels sad, helps the child deal with his own feelings.
DO tell your child that it is okay to feel sad and cry. It’s much better to express feelings of sadness. That helps to make a death more manageable for children and adults.
DO try and prepare the child ahead of time, if possible, so he can understand what is happening. For example, if a pet dies, discuss what that means. Discuss the different life spans of animals and humans, talk about how the leaves change in the fall, or describe how plants grow in the spring and die in the winter.
DO help your child remember all the wonderful things he can about the person who has died. “Memory is the lasting link that can help children and adults accept a death.” (Hazen, 1985)
Some Danger Signals to Watch for in a Child Whose Close Relative has Died
- An extended period of depression in which the child loses interest in daily activities and events.
- Inability to sleep, loss of appetite, prolonged fear of being alone.
- Acting much younger for an extended period.
- Excessively imitating the dead person; repeated statements of wanting to join the dead person.
- Withdrawal from friends.
- Sharp drop in school performance or refusal to attend school.
These warning signs indicate that the child is having serious problems as a result of the death and professional help may be needed. “A child psychiatrist can help the child accept the death and assist the survivors in helping the child through the mourning process.” (Facts for Families, American Academy of Child Psychiatry, Vol. 1, No. 8)
- 1 Corinthians 15:55
- Hebrews 2:15
- Revelation 14:13
- Luke 8:52
- John 11:11
- 2 Corinthians 5:1
- Philippians 1:23
- John 14:1-3
- 2 Timothy 4:6