Hi all, I apologize for not posting in a great while. To be perfectly honest, my mother-in-law passed away on February 25th and I have not been able to get my head back into the game. I realize that I have been extremely delinquent in posting, so I wanted to offer this article that I was going to submit to some papers and magazines. I hope many will find this helpful and I thank you for your understanding until I can get back into the swing of things.
What do we need during grief
As a grief counselor, I would say we need a lot of things, but one thing in particular – time. Society has an idea of how long it should take a person to “get over” their loss. One of the most common ideas is that one should be done grieving after a year. Many companies offer a bereavement leave of 3 days, IF the loss was immediate family. Fewer days are offered if the loss was extended family – and probably none if the loss was a friend or pet. Anyone who has experienced a significant loss will probably feel that these are inaccurate timelines in grief.
Grief, in general, can be experienced in a variety of ways. If a person were experiencing sleep disturbances, appetite changes, poor grades, nightmares, dreams of the loved one, sighing, listlessness, low motivation, clinginess, social withdrawal, fighting, and regressive behaviors (bed-wetting and thumb sucking), grief may be affecting a person’s behaviors. If someone were experiencing the inability to focus and concentrate, difficulty making decisions, self-destructive thoughts, preoccupation of the death, confusion and disbelief, then grief can be affecting their cognitions, or thoughts. If a person were experiencing anger, guilt, regret, mood swings, depression, relief, feelings of helplessness, fear, loneliness and anxiety, then grief can be affecting a person’s feelings, or emotions. If an individual were experiencing headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, a pounding of the heart, hot or cold flashes, increased illness, tightness in the chest, an empty feeling in the body, tightness in the throat and stomach aches, then grief can be affecting their physical being.
The effects of grief do not end there however. A person can experience symptoms affecting their behaviors, thoughts, feelings and body – all at the same time. They can also experience more than one symptom from each of these areas, and again they could happen all at the same time. It is easy to imagine that if an individual has not experienced a loss before, they may question their emotional stability. Many people seek to medicate themselves in an effort to dull, or blunt, these symptoms. Just as many people seek help from their physicians, who in turn often prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxialitics to help their patients “get over the hump.” Medication is just a band-aid for the symptoms. It will cover up the pain for a little while, but it will not take the grief away. Sooner or later the person will have to stop taking the medication and the grief will be there waiting for them. Waiting to be dealt with; waiting to be acknowledged.
Grief and depression are tricky companions. Depression certainly comes with grief. However, we caution people about using anti-depressants while in grief due tothe fact that once the medication is stopped, people will start to feel just as bad as when they first started taking the medication. This surprises a lot of people who felt that they were starting to “get over” their grief, when in actuality they were just delaying the inevitable. This is not to say that if someone is diagnosed as clinically depressed and are grieving that they should not take medication. That’s why grief and depression are tricky companions. One can be diagnosed as clinically depressed AND be in grief. This is a case where one definitely needs to take their prescribed medication. However, a person can be in grief and exhibit one of the symptoms of grief – depression. This may be a case where the person needs to express their emotions and give themselves the gift of time in order to work through their grief.
We always say that you can’t hide, deny or run from grief. It will always be waiting to be dealt with. One must work through the grief. One will never “get over” their loss, but they will learn to accommodate the loss into their life. People, who are grieving, may be struggling with trying to figure out who they are now without their loved one in their life. They may be struggling with finding new goals, new meaning, and new directions. This is all part of the grief process and must be given – time!
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.