Grief and Bereavement Education
The journey of grief—what to expect
Grief has been described as a journey, as a natural part of life, as the internal thoughts, feelings and meaning given to a person’s experience when someone dies. The emotion of grief enters a person without permission. Each person’s experience will be influenced by a variety of factors, including the relationship with the deceased person, the circumstances surrounding the death, and the grieving person’s emotional support system and cultural and spiritual background.
- Grief takes time.
- Grief takes courage and strength.
- Grief often changes you.
- Grief is a healing process.
How you might be feeling
The early weeks and months after the death are a time set aside for grieving and rebuilding. In times of loss, it is helpful to know that the reactions you are experiencing are natural and healthy. Your loss is worthy of a response. While each person experiences grief differently, you may find comfort knowing that others share similar loss responses. You may experience several of the following:
- shock, numbness, disbelief
- sadness, guilt, confusion
- anxiety, irritability, anger
- depression, fatigue, low energy
- loss of appetite, interrupted sleep
- upset stomach, headache, joint pain
- feelings of being lonely, helpless, unsafe
- difficulty focusing, remembering, concentrating
- questioning of priorities, values and beliefs
- search for meaning and purpose
Grief instructs us in the healing art of profound healing. ~ Molly Fumia
Moving through your grief
For a while, your grief may feel like an intensely personal and confusing experience. Signposts along the way will inform you that you are living your grief and, at your own pace, moving toward adjusting to life without your loved one. Each person’s grief experience will be unique, and the process may not necessarily unfold in a predictable pattern. The following steps will serve to guide you through your journey of grief:
- Acknowledge the reality of the death. Begin to accept that your loss is real.
- Experience the emotional pain of the loss. Lean into the pain of your grief, feel it, listen to it and learn from it.
- Remember the person who has died. Treasure the stories that hold the memories and share them with others.
- Allow a search for meaning. You may find yourself asking questions. This is a normal part of the healing process. Explore the questions and allow yourself to be with what they have to teach you.
- Receive ongoing support and continue to live. When ready, reach out to others and allow others to support you. Seek a compassionate, nonjudgmental listener.
It is important to know that the intensity of grief will lessen over time. Remind yourself that you do not stop loving someone because the person has died. The work of grief includes finding new and healthy ways to continue the relationship.
And when we have remembered everything, we grow afraid of what we may forget: a face, a voice, a smile, a birthday, an anniversary. No need to fear forgetting, because the heart remembers always. ~ Author unknown
The path to healing
Each person has an individual style of coping with painful experiences. The list below may help you generate ideas for managing your feelings of grief:
- Be kind and patient with yourself.
- Accept your feelings.
- Seek information about grief.
- Care for your physical self with good nutrition, exercise and rest.
- Be flexible in your routine.
- Tell your story; write about your feelings.
- Seek good listeners.
- Honor and remember your loved one.
- Involve yourself in work or meaningful activity.
- Identify important dates that may be difficult, and plan ahead.
- Begin to create goals and meaning in your life.
- Embrace your spirituality.
- Again, be kind and patient with yourself.
Grief is a process. There is not a correct timetable for the waves and reactions of grief. Yet, as you work through your grief, you will regain balance, develop a sense of completeness and re-engage in life in a deeper way. It takes courage to accept and face the difficult emotions of loss.
It takes patience to discover life again.
Realizing that each person’s grief experience is different, there are many opportunities for support at EvergreenHealth to guide and companion you during this time of loss, grief and transition. Professional bereavement staff members are available for individuals and families in the community who are seeking bereavement support. Services include consultation, counseling, referrals, support groups and community events.
Please call 425-899-1077 for more information or to speak to a counselor.
The experience of grief is powerful. So, too, is your ability to help yourself heal. In doing the work of grief, you are moving toward a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in life. ~ Alan Wolfelt