Monday, July 31, 2006

Expectations in Grief

The grief journey can be a long, painful, confusing time for many.  For some, this may be the first time this grief journey has been experienced.  Or this loss may feel different than a previous loss.  At times one may question if what they are feeling is typical or expected. 


Here is a list of appropriate expectations you can have of yourself in grief:


  • Your grief will take longer than most people think.  Often a griever may hear, “You’re not over this yet?”, or “It’s been a year!  You’re still upset?”


  • Your grief will take more energy than you would have ever imagined.  People don’t realize what hard work grief can be.  Even on a subconscious level, you are constantly working on your grief.  It is important to be very gentle with yourself during this time – for just this exact reason.  Don’t expect so much from yourself right now. 


  • Your grief will involve many changes and be continually developing.  Experiencing a loss changes an individual forever.  Part of the grief journey is the rediscovery of yourself without that special person in your life anymore. 


  • Your grief will show itself in all spheres of your life.  Grief can be experienced in your emotions, thoughts, body and spirit.


  • Your grief will depend on how you perceive the loss.  One of the variables in grief is the kind of relationship you had with the person who died.  If you were closer, then it stands to reason that you may feel the loss more acutely than if you were just an acquaintance. 


  • You will grieve for all the things the death represented, both symbolic and tangible.  These are called “secondary losses.”  You may be grieving the loss of companionship, a protector, a parent, a provider or a friend.


  • Your grief will involve a wide variety of feelings and reactions.  You may experience anger, guilt, regret, sadness and relief.  You may also experience intolerance for others’ behaviors and actions.


  • The loss will resurrect old issues, feelings and unresolved conflicts from the past.  People are often surprised that a loss has the power to bring up feelings from the past.  It may be difficult to attend a funeral or memorial because it might remind you of a painful timein the past.


  • You may experience some identity confusion.  Some people question who they are now that their loved one has died.  What do they do with their life now?  Their plans have been radically altered and changed.  Do they continue with their plans without their loved one?  Do they find something completely different? 


  • You may experience a combination of anger and depression.  People are surprised to find out that they can actually have both of these feelings at the same time. 


  • You may have a lack of self-concern.  Some people may find themselves just sitting around with their thoughts unable to focus on grooming habits, sleeping, eating or getting dressed for work. 


  • You may experience grief bursts (bursts of grief that may occur with no warning).  I often hear people express disappointment in themselves because they thought they were doing so good on their grief journey and for some reason they felt they backslid in their grief and were surprised to feel the pain just as fresh as if it happened that very first day.  Again, it’s very important that you aregentle with yourself during this time.  You are on a roller coaster ride and you have no control over it.  Just because you have moments of intense grief, doesn’t mean that you have failed or are heading into a depression.


  • You may have trouble thinking and making decisions.  Here again, people don’t realize how much work grief is.  Your mind is constantly working on your grief whether it’s a conscious effort or not.  This is definitely a time where your memory may not be as it always was.  This is definitely a time where grievers are asked not to make any major decisions for at least one year after their loved ones death.  It’s hard to think clearly and be focused during this time.


  • You may feel like you are going crazy.  There are so many emotions and feelings going through a person at this time.  One of my earlier postings mentioned that grief mimics insanity, especially if a griever doesn’t know what to expect on their grief journey.


So know you are prepared with some ideas on what you can expect of yourself on your grief journey.  You are not crazy, you are grieving.  Be gentle with yourself, let others know to be gentle towards you, and don’t expect so much from yourself at this time.  Give yourself some time.


Until next week, please be gentle with yourself.




P.S.  If you have found this posting or previous postings helpful, please consider making a donation to The Bereavement Center.  We are a non-profit organization that serves the community, and we operate solely on donations from families, clients and the community.  As always, your donation will be greatly appreciated and acknowledged.


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