1. You will feel a variety of emotions. These may include sadness and depression, which comes and goes, often in surprising ways; anxiety about life without your loved one; regrets over things said or not said, actions taken or not taken; gratitude that your loved one no longer suffers; frustration and anger that he or she died; mood swings; tears welling up at unexpected times.
2. You will be surprised and disappointed by people. Some of your family and friends whom you assumed would “be there” for you, will not. They may be uncomfortable about death and being around a griever. On the other hand, there are people who will surprise you by their support and understanding. These could be a neighbor, a work colleague, an acquaintance or even a stranger.
If you’re a person struggling with grief right now,
hang in there! There’s a brighter future for you,
full of life and hope.
3. You will have to exercise great patience. There is no quick fix for the pain of grief. So, forget about “stages” and “timetables” concerning grief. It will end when it’s time. Bereavement authority Rabbi Earl Grollman stresses the importance of being patient with yourself. In his book, What Helped Me When My Loved One Died, he writes: “Allow sufficient time for the grieving period to run its course. The process is never the same for any two people. Heal in your own way and in your own time.”
4. You will need to focus on remaining healthy. Grief is comprehensive, impacting a person physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Be sure to eat healthy, nutritious meals. Avoid “junk” foods, even though they are convenient and inexpensive. Get the rest you need. Be aware of the danger of developing a dependence on medication or alcohol to deal with your grief.
5. You may feel misunderstood. One recent widow described her inner struggles this way: “I just wish more people could understand where I am right now and not feel like people are giving up on me. This has been one of the most horrendous and difficult life experiences I am dealing with and it’s not ‘getting easier’ or ‘better.’ It’s learning a new way to live that I wish I didn’t have to live.”
6. You may feel regret and guilt. Thoughts such as these may go through your mind—I should have done more…I wish I hadn’t said that…If only I’d acted sooner. Usually this type of thinking can leave you feeling remorseful and guilty. However, upon closer examination, you will see that you did your best under the circumstances.
7. You may wish to tap into your spiritual side. “Even if you ask, ‘How could God allow this to happen?’ sorrow can be a spiritual pilgrimage,” says Rabbi Grollman. “Religion is something you may wish to use—not lose—during your bereavement. You may be able to find comfort in a wisdom that has nourished the souls of humankind for untold generations.”
8. You may wonder when grieving is over. Most times grief recovery is very, very gradual and can leave a person wondering if “it’s over.” Psychologist Dr. William Worden, offers this sign that grief has come to an end in his book Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy. “One benchmark of a completed grief reaction is when the person is able to think of the deceased without pain. Also, mourning is finished when a person can reinvest his or her emotions back into life and in the living.”
9. You will grow through grief. Dr. Bill Flatt, author of Growing Through Grief, offers this encouragement: “If you’re a person struggling with grief right now, hang in there! There’s a brighter future for you, full of life and hope. Based on my own experience and the experience of hundreds of people in our grief recovery groups.”
10. You can make a new life. Here’s how Miriam Baker Nye states this in her book But I Never Thought He’d Die: “Feeling personally destroyed by great loss is common in the early weeks of widowhood. You may wonder how any building material for the new life can be salvaged. When you stand amid the debris of your world, remember that the very earth you inhabit was ‘created out of chaos’. Human history is rich with stories of men and women who gathered up the broken pieces, rebuilding from the ruins.”
Victor M. Parachin, M. Div., is a bereavement educator and grief counselor. He is the author of numerous books about grief including
The Lord Is My Shepherd: A Psalm For The Grieving and Healing Grief.