Living with a broken heart
Grief eventually finds us all, especially the longer we live, and while it’s a common human experience, every single person experiences it differently. Why? Because the love you have for someone is a unique bond shared only between you and that person. When they die, the grief is unique too.
You may certainly be able to understand the kind of sorrow a friend is feeling after losing a parent or a spouse if you have suffered the same loss too. But be cautious of saying that you totally understand someone else’s grief, because odds are you don’t. Not exactly.
According to PsychCentral, there are five common stages of grief that most people go through after a loss. It’s important to note that they don’t necessarily follow in any logical order, and each stage takes as long as it takes for each individual person.
- Denial and isolation. This is a defense mechanism that helps to soften the initial blow. It’s temporary and helps us through the initial pain and shock.
- Once the pain-masking effects of denial have worn off and the sorrow begins to truly sink in, anger rears its ugly head. It’s a reaction to the unthinkable and the loss of control we have in the face of death. It may be aimed at other people, like the doctor who treated your loved one, inanimate objects or even the person you have just lost.
- This is the dreaded, “what if” period. What if we had asked for a second opinion? What if we hadn’t taken that trip? What if we’d eaten better?
- Grief hurts, and it makes us almost unbearably sad to contemplate a life without someone we love, especially in those early days and weeks.
- This isn’t a period of happiness; it’s merely a time of withdrawal and calm after the raging storms brought on by grief. It’s also not a stage everyone reaches, or reaches easily, especially if a death is unexpected or sudden.
It’s important to remember that grief is a wound. It will heal, but it will also leave a scar. There’s no such thing as “getting over” losing someone you love. You merely learn to live with the scar, accepting it as part of the fabric of your being. You will always honor and remember the love you had for someone you’ve lost, and you’ll carry that person in your heart as you move forward in life without them.
Well-meaning friends and family members may try to tell you that there’s a specified length of time to grieve. Remember that it’s different for everyone, and that it comes in waves as special days, anniversaries and memories trigger moments of sorrow that can sometimes feel very raw and fresh.
Allow yourself to feel those moments of pain. Sit with it, accept that it’s part of you, and know that it’s a perfectly normal reaction to an unwanted separation from someone you loved deeply. Resisting grief may only prolong the natural healing process.
Take care of yourself while you are grieving. Eat well, get plenty of rest, spend time with people that give you comfort, and pamper yourself in small, comforting ways. If you find yourself smiling or enjoying something again, don’t feel guilty. In fact, look for things that bring you a little respite from your sorrow. Your loved one would want you to begin to feel joy again, and would be pleased to know that you’re finally able to look back on the time you had together with pleasure.
If you find that your grief is becoming overwhelming, talk to your doctor or your church leader about counseling options. Grief should slowly become easier to cope with over the weeks and months. If it’s not, it’s wise to consider getting a little extra help to see you through it. Online or in-person support groups might also be helpful if you want to share your stories with other people who are coping with loss.
UK: For more information on the grieving process as well as a wealth of support options including a helpline and messageboards, Much Loved.
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