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Located in West Nyack, New York
One reason that we often find grief such a difficult challenge is that we have never learned what to expect. The following facts will help you understand some crucial truths about grief and grieving and how we can work through the process to find healing. A loss is a very personal matter. Your loss seems like the worst possible thing that could have happened to you.
Sometimes people ask if it is more difficult to lose a spouse than to lose a child. Others question if it is worse to lose someone after a long lingering illness or if they die suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack or in an accident. While these circumstances make each loss different, they are not important to you right now.
The worst kind of loss is yours. When you lose a significant person from your life, whatever the relationship, it hurts and nothing takes away from your right to feel the loss and grief the absence of that person from your life. Grief is painful. Loss is one of the most difficult human experiences. There is no easy way around it.
We may try to avoid the pain. We may attempt to get over it as quickly as possible. But most often it simply does not work that way. Helen Keller said "The only Every relationship holds a special and unique significance to us. To fully interpret our grief response we need to understand what the relationship brought to my life and therefore what has been lost from my life.
We may grieve the loss of a parent differently from the loss of a friend. Each made a different contribution to our lives. What we have lost is not the same and so we grieve differently. Two individuals, both experiencing the loss of a spouse, may grieve quite differently because of the differing circumstances (the duration, level of happiness etc) of the relationship.
A grief response is often referred to as "Grief-work". It requires more energy to work through than most people expect. It takes a toll on us physically and emotionally. This is why we often feel so fatigued after a loss or why we may feel very apathetic towards people and events. The problem is often compounded by people"s expectations of us to be strong or pull ourselves together or to get on with life.
How long will grief last? It is finished when it is finished. The first few months may be particularly intense. The first year is difficult: especially the first Christmas or Hanukkah, the first birthday, anniversary, Mother"s Day, Valentine"s Day, "a year ago today day" and many other times that remind us of our loss. All are difficult days and we need to anticipate them, know they are normal and be compassionate with ourselves.
Some writers describe the second year of grief as the lonely year when the realization of the life without the deceased becomes even more of a reality. Take your time. As John Donne says "He who has no time to mourn, has no time to mend." Grief always takes longer than people expect. You may experience a wide variety of feelings and reactions, not just those generally associated with grief, like sadness, crying, depression etc.
Some of your responses may seem quite uncharacteristic. "This isn"t like me", you may think. Grief is unpredictable. We cannot present it in a neat predictable package. Just when you think you have it figured out something comes along to surprise us. In an unexpected moment, suddenly, without warning you find yourself missing the person again.
In fact the one predictable thing about grief is that it is unpredictable. The death of any individual, difficult as that may be by itself, may also precipitate many other changes in your life. For some it may mean the loss of financial security, a home, or even their independence. For some it may mean the loss of a role: eg the role of being a parent to a child who dies.
For others it may be the loss of our hopes and dreams of "living happily ever after" or enjoying retirement together, or having dad walk me down the aisle. There may be many losses - environment, status, alteration of relationships - because of the death. Each one has it"s own impact and each loss needs to be mourned. the next we find ourselves in the depths of despair.
Just when we think we are getting over it we may experience another devastating setback. This can be discouraging to those who do not know what is happening. Most have not learned that grief comes and goes and takes much longer than most people expect. We need to realize that this is the way grief works itself out and trust that the process, difficult as it is, is helping us work towards reconciliation.
Society has unrealistic expectations about mourning and often responds inappropriately. Most people do not understand what is normal in grief, expecting us to get over it quickly and expressing these expectations in a way that seems less than sensitive. Many people mistakenly believe that grief is so personal we want to keep it to ourselves.
People mean well, but they are not being helpful. Sometimes when people are using cliches or expressing unrealistic expectations we feel like shutting ourselves away. Often they feel uncomfortable with our grief and so, shortly after the funeral is over, the person or the loss is not mentioned. There sometimes seems to be a conspiracy of silence.
People are afraid to say or do the wrong thing so they say and do nothing which is possibly the worst thing. Grieving people need to talk. Not everyone will be willing or even able to respond to you. In fairness, not everyone can. Accept that and try to find a support group or a counsellor who can help. Or talk to someone who has been through a similar experience.
I believe in the power of shared experiences, and often others who have been through the deep places can be a real help. Grief is about coping with the loss of a relationship and often in a helping relationship, relief can be found.
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