When someone you love dies…
“No one can tell you about grief, about its limitless boundaries, its unfathomable depths. No one can tell you about the crater that is created in the center of your body, the one that nothing can fill.”
—Ruth Coughlin, from Grieving: A Love Story
The death of a loved one comes in many ways…a spouse or parent you’ve loved for half a century…a child you never knew…a friend’s death by suicide or violence. However it comes, the death of someone close brings shock and finality for which nobody is truly prepared.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear… The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness. I keep on swallowing.”
—C.S. Lewis, from A Grief Observed
Grief is never orderly. Bereaved people often move back and forth through numbness, suffering and acceptance.
Common physical reactions to grief are: exhaustion, loss or increase of appetite, insomnia, tightness in chest, shortness of breath and dizziness. Emotional effects include: numbness, shock, anxiety, guilt, anger, depression, irritability, inability to concentrate, withdrawal and fear of “going crazy.” These feelings are difficult but normal.
“If the relationship with the deceased was unhealthy, the grieving process can be more complicated,” says hospice social worker Janet Hayden, “particularly if issues were unresolved at the time of death.”
“If you want to resolve your grief, if you want to leave the pain behind… sooner or later you must go through the pain,” according to grief expert Therese Rando.
I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. Psalm 6:6
10 steps toward healing
To help yourself at this difficult time, keep these thoughts in mind:
- Take the time you need to grieve and heal
- Let loved ones know how you feel. Ask for help if you need it.
- Talk with someone who’s been through the experience. Consider joining a support group.
- Keeping a journal can be a healthy outlet.
- Be kind to yourself. Eat properly and exercise. Physical activity releases stress.
- Do not let yourself be put on a pedestal by those who praise your courage.
- Read about grief. Professionals and those who have experienced loss have a lot to share.
- Your toughest time may be about six months after the death when people think you should be “over it.”
- Try to help others. This keeps you from dwelling too much on yourself.
- Pray. Know that God is with you in your pain and loneliness and will give you strength.