On Loss and the Grieving Process

The Grieving Process

Where do I even begin? In the last month, I have had dear friends that have incurred such loss. Three lost their mothers, another lost her godmother, and two more lost their close friends. I have also spoken with many other people lately who have suffered loss. Our society allows one full year for maternity/paternity leave, and yet only one week (if even that long) to grieve the loss of a loved one. Until you have gone through a similar loss, you cannot even begin to imagine the depths of the emotions that the individual is going through.

When I lost my father to cancer in 2009, I wanted the world to stop spinning just for one minute to help acknowledge my grief but, the world didn’t. I thought that was just plain cruel. I was very sensitive to loud noises, my body ached, I was incredibly angry and sad. Certain friends that I had expected to be there for me, just plain and simply were not. No one could say anything “right” to me. I wanted people to ask about dad, but at the same time, I didn’t want them to ask. And when they told me, “Be strong”…or “He is in a much better place”, I wanted to choke them! Something else that had a real effect on me was the changing of the seasons. Because I grew up on a farm, each of the seasons carry its own meaning and memories. So spring and fall were and still are very difficult months for me. Certain dates also trigger me: his birthday, my parents’ wedding anniversary, the date of his death, and the date of his funeral.

After dad’s passing, I was told by a good friend who had lost her husband about the Grief Support Group run through the Rocky View Hospital in Calgary.http://www.calgaryhealthregion.ca/programs/griefsupport/access.htm or call 403-943-3533.
The program only lasts 6 weeks, but I received some great insights into everything it was that I was feeling and realized that I was not alone in this process and that all my feelings and symptoms were “normal”. Some deep friendships were formed with members of this group. It is like you are part of a secret society that truly understands one another. It was such a healing process and such a relief to find out some of the symptoms of grief. These include, and are not limited to the following which are taken directly from the Bereavement booklet, “A Guide To Understanding And Healing As You Grieve”:

Emotional Responses:
– Shock, numbness, disbelief
– Anxiety, panic
– Intense sadness, depression
– Guilt, fear, denial
– Deep loneliness; a longing for the person who died
– Anger at the deceased, at self, at others, at God or a higher power
– Helplessness, hopelessness
– Overwhelmed
– Relief that the deceased person’s suffering has ended
– Relief that caregiving has ended

Mental Responses:
– Lack of concentration (brain fog)
– Disorganization
– Lack of motivation
– Impaired judgment and decision making
– Inability to think of anything but the loss
– Short term memory loss
– Hallucinations-sightings of the deceased
– Unable to communicate easily
– Forgetfulness
– Confusion

Spiritual Responses:
– Feeling the presence of the deceased
– Anger with God or a higher power
– Belief or philosophies change
– Inability to find comfort in one’s faith
– Abandoning religious practices
– Changes to perspective on life
– A closer relationship with God or a higher power
– Hope that healing will eventually take place

Social Responses:
– Difficulty supporting one another, especially among grieving family members
– Unease, or discomfort- friends may feel uncomfortable around you and may want you to be your ”old self” again
– Misunderstandings caused by differences in grieving “styles”
– A feeling that the energy previously used in social or family roles is no longer necessary

This is not an exhaustive list. Everyone grieves differently. Another thing that helped me was to realize that grief is not a linear process. You don’t go from Shock to Anger to Sadness to Acceptance. You can move back and forth between each of these at any point in time and go right back to the beginning again.

I am sharing this information in the hopes of being able to help any of you who are currently grieving the loss of a loved one as there seems to be so much of it occurring lately. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. May friends, family and community support you through this time of deep sorrow.
In love and light,
Susanne