We spend much of our lives working towards having great relationships, a good job, a comfortable home, nice possessions, and all those things that make life rich and meaningful. But what happens when we suddenly lose one of them? Grief is as natural to every person as breathing. It is inevitable.
Loss comes in many forms. It might be the death of someone you love, a best friend moving away, losing your job, having your car written off, your marriage breaking down, losing your house, or even realising that something you were looking forward to just isn’t going to happen. Everyone feels their loss in a different way, and if you don’t react in the same way as someone else it does not mean that there is something wrong with you (or with them). Some losses are experienced as deep despair, others as a tragedy, and some strike us with feelings of panic. However, many people tend to follow a general pattern after a loss and work through a range of emotions.
At first, there is often a time of shock and disbelief. People can feel lost, dazed and confused. As the awareness of the loss gradually sinks in the numb feelings can change to feelings of overwhelming sadness, and some people may cry a lot. The loss might be felt as a deep, gut-wrenching pain, and it is tempting to try to mask it with pain-killers, alcohol or drugs, but this is not healthy and actually makes the grieving process more difficult and prolonged. Someone in grief looks very much like someone in depression, but this is normal and there is no need to be concerned – unless they don’t improve after a reasonable time.
Throughout the grieving process most people experience feelings of anger, hostility, resentment, anxiety, panic, loneliness, tiredness, and guilt. Some may have trouble sleeping, lose their appetite, constantly feel tired, or have vivid dreams. Gradually this emotional roller-coaster settles down and people generally become interested in the things of every day life again. They can enjoy fond memories of a loved one, and even though he or she is still greatly missed, the sadness is not as acute, and resignation to the acceptance of their absence takes over. Then most people who have been grieving get involved in old interests again, and may take up new ones. Life goes on, and even though it may not be quite the same, it can be a rich and fulfilling one.
Although most people move normally through their grieving time, some get stuck somewhere along the way. Often they have trouble coming to terms with their feelings and try to push those feeling away. Guilt-provoking thoughts of “What if…”or “If only I had…” fill their heads. Perhaps they are shocked by sudden feelings of overwhelming anger, which they think are wrong and feel bad for having them. Or they may feel that their tears are “stuck” and they just can’t cry. Sometimes people feel disloyal to a deceased loved one if they go on and enjoy life without them.
Talking to someone about this helps a great deal. However, not everyone is in a position to have supporting friends and family around at their time of need. Seeing a psychologist is a very healthy step in the right direction. Wendy can help you to gain insight into what might be keeping you from returning to normal after a reasonable period of grieving. She will teach you what to do with those feelings you don’t know how to manage, and how to get life back on track again.
But do remember this; it is quite OK to occasionally shed a tear for someone or something you have lost, even after many years.