I often hear from people in the early stages of grief – i.e. less than a year – who express fear that their grief is not resolving. They are concerned that weeks and months have gone by and they are still in pain, or possibly feeling worse, and are not over it like they ‘should’ be. On top of the pain of grief, many folks feel afraid that their grief is unhealthy, or they may be going crazy. Unrealistic social myths about recovery from grief further entrench that fear and worry.
Constructive Action is Important
To break through the myths of grief, people need information on how grief works so they can take action to deal constructively with their pain. In particular, many people do not realize that the initial shock of loss acts as a temporary anesthetic that cushions the blow so the mind can cope. When stronger grief emotions start to emerge – days, weeks or even months later, it can feel very frightening and overwhelming. Grievers need to know that this is a normal experience, and an important part of the healing process. The emotions of grief need to be expressed and worked through – often repeatedly – so the grieving person can come to terms with their loss and move on with their life.
As time passes during the grieving process, different actions on the part of the griever can facilitate healthy grief. For instance, in the early days of loss when shock is more prevalent and energy low, grievers can request concrete support from friends and loved ones to help them manage the activities of daily life, such as preparing meals, driving children to aschool or activities, dealing with paperwork or phone call, etc. Grieving people can also benefit from recent loss support groups, as it normalizes their experience and demystifies what to expect from oneself and others. Later in the grieving process, when emotions tend to be more intense, ongoing support groups and/or counseling can help people cope with their feelings. At different points in the grieving process there are tasks that can be completed that help ease painful feelings of grief. For example, it is often essential for the bereaved to find ways to keep memories of their loved one alive, by discussing them with others and creating memorials. Over time it also becomes important for grieving people to start creating new rituals, so their lives are not tethered to their loss.
Grief recovery is not linear, and how it is experienced is unique to each individual, though there tend to be some common experiences and themes. The pain of loss never really disappears completely, but can be channeled into healthy personal growth. By learning about what to expect from grief over time, grievers can take effective action that will help them manage the pain of their loss by putting their time to good use.
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Glynis Sherwood – MEd, Canadian Certified Counselor, Registered Clinical Counselor, specializes in helping people recover from all kinds of Loss, Grief and Stuck Grief – aka ‘the pain that won’t go away. I look forward to hearing from you and helping you achieve the peace of mind you want and deserve.
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