Everyone Experiences Loss…

Loss and grief are an inevitable part of life. When losing an acquaintance, friend, or close family member, a dark void may be left in your heart. After losing someone, it is NORMAL to experience tiredness, headaches, low appetite, difficulty concentrating, dreams, trouble sleeping, and feelings of guilt, anger and anxiety. Your feelings and reactions may be complicated, especially if the present loss brings to your memory past losses. The important thing for you is accepting you may not function as well as you normally do for the time being. As various emotions arise, allow yourself to feel, to cry, and to share them others.

Let Yourself Feel

Denying or pushing away painful emotions of loss may be tempting; after all, grief is often intensely painful. In the long run, however, dismissing your feelings will leave you emotionally numb. By denying pain, you are denying how important this person was to you. This can close your heart to the joys and vulnerabilities of other relationships. Keeping painful feelings at bay will not only close your heart, but will ultimately prevent you from resolving this loss and growing from it.

No Time Limit!

Ironically, trying to ignore, deny, or forget grief will ensure that you continue to experience pain. However, if you accept your grief and choose to face it, you will heal and grow. As you are grieving, remember that there is no “time limit”. Though grief subsides over weeks and months, it may still come and go over a period of years. Feelings of sadness may overwhelm you at unexpected times and places, and that is okay.

Take Care of Yourself

Staying in touch with your grief does not mean you can’t distract yourself from it. It is important for you to be kind to yourself when dealing with the intense emotions of loss. Read a good book, watch a movie, attend a social outing, or do whatever you need to do to have fun and refresh your mind. If you are experiencing regrets regarding the person you lost, wishing that you had said or done something differently when he or she was alive, work towards forgiving yourself. Furthermore, forgive and accept yourself for any anger you might feel towards the person you lost. First and foremost, take care of yourself and accept yourself during the grieving process.

Your Grieving Process is Unique

Each person has a unique way of dealing with loss. Reading and taking long nature walks are ways to process your loss and find peace again. You might consider expressing yourself artistically through things like journaling, writing poetry, or composing music. Sticking to your daily routine will help you find a sense of stability even while you feel unstable on the inside. Getting regular exercise will enhance your sense of well-being. The important thing is not how you grieve but that you grieve. Many people pressure themselves to “get over” their pain quickly. Don’t rush yourself through the process of grieving. Allow yourself the time you need to mourn this loss.

Share Your Thoughts and Feelings

Among the most important things you can do are talking to others in a support group and finding an individual counselor. It will help you to share your feelings with others. Though loss is very painful, reflecting on its meaning with others will help you gain a deeper self-awareness. It will ultimately help you treasure and appreciate the relationship you lost, and what you gained from it. Remember that this person’s presence in your life contributed to who you have become. Grieving the loss of an important person can be a purifying time in your life. You are given the opportunity to reflect on your life, simplify it, and rearrange your priorities.

The Five Stages of Grief

You might have heard of the five stages of grief given to us by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She has helped us recognize common stages people go through when they learn they have lost, or will lose, someone to disease, old age, or unexpected tragedy. Knowing these stages may help you identify and understand your own grieving process. However, grieving is unique to each individual and these stages are not set in stone. You may experience only some of them, or experience them in a different order.

The first stage is denial. After finding out someone you love has died or is dying, it might not seem real to you at first. You might deny it is really happening. The second stage is anger. This loss might feel very unfair. You might be angry at the person who died, wondering how he or she could leave you. You might also feel angry at God, or at yourself. The third stage of grief is “bargaining”. You might bargain with God, or with the dying person, saying if only this person will continue to live, you promise to do something in return. You also might say that if this person only lives until a certain event such as your wedding, graduation, or birth of your first child, you will accept his/her death after that. The fourth stage is depression; this is when the reality hits you and you feel powerless to control the loss. It feels pretty miserable. The final stage is acceptance, when you are tired of fighting and struggling against facing the loss. You realize you must make peace with this loss and continue with your life.

Conclusion

Remember the most important aspects of grieving. Let yourself feel the pain of loss, accept yourself and your feelings, take care of yourself, and do creative things to help yourself grieve. Don’t forget to reach out for support and share your grieving process with others. Grieving is full of opportunity for healing and growth.

To make an appointment with a member of the Georgetown College Student Wellness Center’s counseling staff for help on this or any issue, please call 502-863-7074. Counseling staff include:

Lynda Fereday
Russell Hall
Sarah Joyner
Ruth Riding-Malon
Jean Tzou
Audrey Wagner
Dr. Macy Wyatt
Dr. Edward Marshall

By Audrey Wagner


Endnotes:
1 Carenotes. (2000). Grieving in your own way [Brochure]. Abbey Press: St. Meinrad, IN: Dotterweich, K.
2 Homan, P., PhD, LPC, FT. Grief and loss in today’s world. Retrieved from http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3537 on January 23, 2007.
3 Homan, P.
4 Homan, P.
5 Bowling Green State University: Counseling and Career Development Center. (n.d.). On saying goodbye [Brochure]. Bowling Green, OH: Vickio, C. J.
6 “The Grief Experience.” Retrieved from http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3498 on January 23, 2007.
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9 Carenotes. (2000).
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12 Hospice of the Bluegrass (n.d.). Hospice bereavement counseling [Brochure].
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17 “Kubler-Ross model.” From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model on January 24, 2007.
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22“Kubler-Ross Model.”