Learning Strategies Blog

Grieving the loss of a loved one

by Pete Bissonette

The loss of a loved one is never easy, and the experience of grief is very personal. It is seldom the same from one person to another. While there is no right way or wrong way to grieve, and while it isn’t possible to speed up the process of grief, you can find inner comfort and support from using the Paraliminals.

Feel free to listen to a 16-minute conversation with Paul Scheele on how you can use Paraliminals to work on your emotions, your energy, and your own self-care when faced with a loss of someone you love.

Pete

P.S. – The Hospice of the North Shore offers various resources on grieving including the Stages of Grief and the Myths of Grief:

THE STAGES OF GRIEF
The work of grief cannot be hurried. It takes a great deal of time, usually a year or more. It may be the purest pain you have ever known.

The following are stages of grief that are commonly experienced after a loss. You may not experience all of these, and you may not experience them in this order. It is important to realize, however, that what you are feeling is natural and that, with time, you will heal.

Shock
Some people experience shock after a loss, saying things like "I feel numb" and displaying no tears or emotions. Sometimes there is denial. Gradually the bereaved become aware of what has happened, and they are able to express their emotions. Other people never go through a prolonged stage of shock. They are able to express emotions immediately.

Emotional Release
At some point a person begins to feel and to hurt. It is very important not to suppress your feelings. Suppressed feelings often surface at a later time in unhealthy ways. Shared feelings are a gift, and bring a closeness to all involved.

Preoccupation with the Deceased or the Crisis
Despite efforts to think of other things, a grieving person may find it difficult to shift his/her mind from thoughts about the deceased person. This is not unusual and, with time, should not be a problem.

Symptoms of Some Physical and Emotional Distress
These distresses may come in waves. The most common physical distresses are:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Tightness in the throat
  • A choking feeling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Deep sighing
  • An empty hollow feeling in the stomach
  • Lack of muscular power ("It’s almost impossible to climb stairs" or "everything I lift seems heavy")
  • Digestive symptoms and poor appetite

Closely associated with the physical distresses may be certain emotional alternations, the most common of which are:

  • A slight sense of unreality
  • Feelings of emotional distance from people—that no one really cares or understands
  • Sometimes people appear shadowy or very small
  • Sometimes there are feelings of panic, thoughts of self-destruction, or the desire to run away or "chuck it all"

These emotional disturbances can cause many people to feel they are approaching insanity, but these feelings are actually quite normal.

Hostile Reactions
You may catch yourself responding with a great deal of anger to situations that previously would not have bothered you. The feelings can be surprising and very uncomfortable. They often make people feel that they are going crazy. Anger can be directed at the doctor, the nurse, God, sometimes even at your loved one who died.

Often, there may be feelings of hurt or hostility toward family members who do not or, for various reasons cannot, provide the emotional support the grieving person may have expected from them. Anger and hostility are normal. Do not suppress your anger. However, it is important that you understand and direct your anger towards what you are really angry at, namely the loss of someone you loved.

Guilt
There is almost always some sense of guilt in grief. The bereaved think of the many things they felt they could have done, but didn’t. They accuse themselves of negligence. These hurts pop up in grief. Guilt is normal and should pass with time.

Depression
Many grieving people feel total despair, unbearable loneliness and hopelessness; nothing seems worthwhile. These feelings may be even more intense for those who live alone or who have little family. These feelings are normal and should also pass with time.

Withdrawal
The grieving person often tends to withdraw from social relationships. Their daily routines are often disrupted as well. Life seems like a bad dream. This is normal and will take some effort to overcome, but the rewards are worthwhile.

Resolution and Readjustment
This comes gradually. The memories are still there, the love is still there, but the wound begins to heal. You begin to get on with life. It’s hard to believe now, but you will feel better. By experiencing deep emotion and accepting it, you will grow warmth, depth, understanding and wisdom.

MYTHS OF GRIEF

MYTH: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
Fact: Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.

MYTH: It’s important to be "be strong" in the face of loss.
Fact: Feeling sad, frightened or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to "protect" your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.

MYTH: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.
Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.

MYTH: Grief should last about a year.
Fact: There is no right or wrong time frame for grieving. How long it takes can differ from person to person.

MYTH: Moving on with your life means you’re forgetting the one you lost.
Fact: Moving on means you’ve accepted your loved one’s death. That is not the same as forgetting. You can create a new life and still keep your loved one’s memory a part of you.

MYTH: Friends can help by not bringing up the subject.
Fact: People who are grieving usually want and need to talk about their loss. Bringing up the subject can make it easier to talk about.