Everyone at some point in their life has to deal with the death of someone they know. The loss of a loved one is a difficult thing to go through. When you lose someone close to you, you go through a series of different feelings, which we call the grieving process. A grieving person usually goes through five distinct stages during this process.
The first stage is denial. Most people find themselves in a state of disbelief when they hear of someone’s death. They can’t believe the person they once knew is dead, that they will never see that person again in this world.
The second stage is anger. Along with feeling angry at the situation in general, a grieving person often feels angry with the person who died. It is common to ask questions like, “Why did you leave me?” “How can you die?”
The third stage is guilt. The grieving person feels guilty for thinking badly about the loved one who died. Sometimes the grieving person even feels responsible for the person’s death. If I had only called…if I had only been there…if I had only______…then maybe I could have stopped them from dying. Such thoughts are obviously irrational, but they are clear signs that the grieving person is in the guilt stage.
The fourth stage is depression. The grieving person experiences a feeling of deep emptiness for the loss in his or her life. This stage is what most people expect during the grieving process, though expecting it doesn’t make it easier to endure. It is difficult to miss a loved one and try to envision a life without them.
The fifth stage is acceptance. The grieving person finally comes to terms with the fact that his or her loved one is dead and that life must continue.
A person may not go through these stages in the exact order I have listed them. For example, you may go from depression back up to anger and then depression again before moving into acceptance. The order and endurance of the stages varies depending on the person.
Here are some suggestions of things that you can do to help yourself get through the grieving process:
Attend the funeral. Although it may be difficult, attending the funeral will help you get out of the denial stage. What really triggers a person out of denial is an open casket funeral-an opportunity to see the body before it is buried.
Write a farewell letter. Take the opportunity to say things that you wished you had told the person. Your feelings of anger, sadness, joy or whatever else will be released on paper.
Release the anger. Some constructive things you can do to help release your anger includes journaling, punching a pillow, squishing clay, coloring your angry feelings out on paper, talking to someone and exercising.
Seek and accept support. Going through the grief process all alone can be difficult.
Support yourself with friends and family. Joining a grief support group that can help you through the process may also be a good idea.
Let yourself cry. Holding feelings inside is not healthy. Let your feelings out. Find a special place to do this where you feel comfortable, whether that be on a friend’s shoulder or into your pillow. You don’t want to let it out at work or in class or another inappropriate place.
Take care of yourself. It really is not the end of the world. You will have the opportunity to see your loved one in the next life. So eat, sleep, take a shower, exercise and do anything else you can think of that will help you to feel good.
Create a memory box. It is a lot more difficult to get over the loss of someone when his or her belongings are everywhere in sight. Creating a memory box is a positive way of putting your loved one’s things aside. This box would contain items that you see as most sentimental and will help you eliminate things that may not be as important. Some examples of things you could put in the box are achievement awards, trophies, letters, pictures, diplomas or anything that had a special meaning for the loved one. This project is something you do when you feel you are emotionally ready. You should try, however, not to wait longer than a month. Waiting longer than one month is an indication that you don’t want to let go. Letting go is something that needs to happen in order for you to be able to continue with your own life. Since this may be a difficult project for you, ask other family members to help you. You can also do the project in stages instead of all at once.
Avoid making serious life changes. You have already gone through a serious life change with the loss of a loved one, so you don’t need the stress of another big change. Even nice changes such as buying a house, having a baby or getting a new car can be a source of stress. As a matter of fact, you need to limit the amount of decisions that you make in general. A person’s mind is not very well focused when it is going through the grief process. Give yourself at least the opportunity to get used to the loss before making any change.
Keep up with your responsibilities. I know losing someone is hard, but you shouldn’t stop your whole life. You need to continue focusing on the things that you normally do like work, family, friends, church and school. It will become easier on you when your entire life is not focused on your loss. Just think, your loved one wouldn’t want you to spend every waking moment grieving over them. He or she would want you to continue living your life and to be happy.
While these things can help you get through the grieving process, make sure that you do give yourself time to grieve. How much time it takes to get through this process depends on the relationship you had with the person who passed. Eventually, you will reach the acceptance stage. Being aware of these stages and having some ideas for how to work through them will make the grieving process a little easier.