How to Grieve Well

Not everyone grieves in the same way.  After all, there are different people with different physical appearances, perspectives, experiences, thoughts, emotions, backgrounds, and attitudes.  So why when it comes to grief do some believe that there is one correct way to handle the loss of a loved one?

There are in fact a number of constructive ways to manage the feelings of grief and some destructive ways.  Learning the difference between the two is far more important.

Denial.  It is not uncommon for someone to struggle with believing that a loved one has passed away or to pretend that the person has not really passed.  For a time being, the person may even imagine conversations with their loved one, knowing how they would most likely respond in a given situation.  This usually does not last too long after passing and is more of the emotions catching up to reality.  The seeds of dysfunction can begin however when the emotions fail to accept the reality and the person relies solely on how they feel instead of what they know.

 Anger.  This is a hard emotional reaction for some.  Some people become angry with the person who passed away blaming them for not taking care of themselves, not paying attention, abandoning their family or not caring for those left behind.  Others become angry with themselves for not saying good-bye, not being there, having a fight or argument just before or not meeting their needs.  Oftentimes, the anger does not come out at themselves or the person who passed, rather the anger shows itself at the others who are left behind.  Being aware of this strong emotion and not allowing it to overtake current relationships keeps the destructive far away.

Bargaining.  “If only”, “I should have”, or “I wish” are all bargaining methods of trying to regain control of life after someone had passed.  When a person engages in this type of thinking, they are really saying that they had control over the timing or the situation of the person passing away.  This is a normal response and while it sounds a little bit dysfunctional, this thinking can actually be helpful.  The feelings of denial and anger seem to consume our thoughts and life seems to be out of control.  In contrast bargaining is a way to return life back to some level of control.  The dysfunctional side of bargaining is a continual behavior of negotiating life in attempts to keep others alive.

Depression.  It is perfectly normal to feel depressed after losing a loved one, to not feel this way at some point is to engage in dysfunctional behavior.  Depression is a valley in life, a period of time when things seem to slow down, a time for being introspective, a time for self-evaluation, and a time to reflect on what is already gone.  These moments can bring greater clarity and meaning to our lives which can later enhance the quality of life.  Depending on how close the person was that passed, this period can last for months or years without becoming destructive.

Acceptance.  Not that we don’t miss the person who is gone or that we don’t still wish the person was alive, but at some point there is a realization that life goes on and we can be happy again.  While happiness seemed elusive before, it now becomes more frequent and the simple things seem to bring us joy again.  It is almost as if we return to a better form of ourselves as a result of the experience from having lost a loved one.  Better in that we appreciated life more, appreciate our loved ones more, appreciate the time we have with others more and appreciate the person who passed more.  The only dysfunction is never feeling these feelings again, in getting stuck in one of the other emotions.

Grief is normal and healthy.  It can take on many different forms depending on the person experiencing the grief and the person having passed.  The entire process can last a few weeks, months, or years and should not be rushed as if another task to finish.  This is a valuable time of insight, reflection and understanding that can improve the quality of your life going forward.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Embracing Grief When You Have Lost a Loved One

Out of the blue, you receive a message that someone you loved has passed away.  Perhaps it is a sibling, a longtime friend, or close co-worker, he/she is close to you but not one of your immediate family.  Whatever the nature of your relationship, the timing of their death is so unexpected that you can hardly believe what you are hearing.  And yet you know intellectually that it is true.  Your emotions do not catch up to the reality quick enough so your response is distorted by a numbness of disbelief.  You are left hanging, not knowing what to do or how to respond.  Your relationship with the immediate family is close so you feel this pull to be with them but are unsure of how to act, what to say or who to speak with during this time.

The climate of our present culture is one that has lost touch with the art of maintaining intimate relationships. Media influences such as Facebook, texting, and video gaming all of which do more to disconnect relationships rather connect serve instead to keep intimate relationships at arm’s length.  While on the surface it may seem as though we are connecting to old friends or distant relatives by befriending or sending a message, the lack of two-way face-to-face conversation keeps the relationship at this distance.  During the times of a crisis such as the loss of a loved one, the distance then becomes a temptation not to act and to remain safely away.  But this is not an example of loving your neighbor.  So what is?

Time.  As hard as it is, one of the most loving acts of kindness is giving your time.  Just spending time with the immediate family can be a source of great comfort in a time of great loss.  One of the many temptations during this time however is to remain detached and self-protective as you embrace your own loss, but that is a selfish act.  Selflessness is the willingness to put aside your own emotions and become involved in caring for those whose loss is even greater.  Time demands that you are physically present offering to remain as long as needed to care for the suffering of another.

Listen.  During your time with the immediate family, do not enforce your own agenda or your own views of the loved one who has passed.  Rather, listen to the family speak allowing them the freedom to become angry, bitter, sad, and emotional.  Don’t argue or dispute what they are saying, just allow them to ramble.  The explosion of thoughts which plague your mind during this time are even more intense for the immediate family so let them just speak.  Some feel the need to narrate the story of their lives, some feel the need to just sit in complete quiet, some feel the need to be around people, and some feel the need to give instructions.  Whatever their need, be there to listen without judgment or correction.

Embrace.  There is no way around this.  Once you physically make yourself available and spend some time listening to a person grieve, you will become emotionally and intimately involved in the grieving process.  This act defies the nature of our culture which preaches that it is “all about me” and invites you to embrace an intimate moment which is about the one who has passed away and the ones who are left behind.  While it is scary to allow yourself to be so involved, it is an act of kindness that demonstrates fully the love of Christ.

To the outside world, such behavior of giving your time, listening unconditionally and embracing grief sounds draining and normally it is if you are doing such acts on your own strength.  But if you rely on the strength of Christ, there is far more than you need.  John 7:38, “Anyone who believes in me [Jesus] may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”  These rivers of living water are nourishment and refreshment in times of great challenge and great need which are available to all who believe in Jesus.  When you give of yourself during a time of loss, you are really giving the love of Christ of which there is an endless supply and far more than you need.  This is one of the many demonstrations of loving your neighbor which becomes a light to all who see.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.