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Begin early to formulate choices that will make you feel less like a victim and more like a survivor. Leave nothing to chance. Review what you did in the past and ask yourself how you can better work through your present. Write down the pros and cons of what you might do. Make your decisions known to your family, friends, and relatives. It's probably going to be a tough day but planning ahead can ease some of the strain.
Don't pretend that you don't hurt. Your life has changed. Part of you has been buried with your beloved. Your sorrow is an emotion, not a disease. There is no getting around the pain. The only cure for grief is to grieve. You don't have to prove that you're so strong and 'doing so well!" After all, your beloved one is not here to share the special day.
It might help to change the old routines and start new traditions. If you had always met at a particular home, you might have different seating arrangements, alter the hour that you would usually eat, or vary the customary menu. Or you might go someplace new. Just because you always went to Aunt Mary's doesn't mean that you must go again this year. If you feel the need, do something different - spend time with another family or take a trip away from your city. Just don't escape into loneliness. After the special day, evaluate what you think you might do the following year. Growth and change go hand in hand.
Try to reduce unnecessary pressures. You don't have to assume a major responsibility for the preparation. You have enough on your mind without adding another trial to be endured. Be patient with yourself. Your mind and body and soul need time and energy to mend. Remember that drugs and alcohol can sedate for the moment, but ultimately leave the nervous system in shreds. Just strive to do that which is within your capabilities. You don't need the additional stress that comes from attempting to do too much when you are short on endurance and long on grief.
Try to be with those individuals who will allow you to share your honest feelings and accept you for what you are - a bereaved person. You need emotional support from those who understand your loneliness, bitterness, fear, and love. You should be able to mention your beloved's name without fear that you are "ruining" the day for others. Understanding friends and family members can lend a sympathetic ear as they relate their own memories and recollections. But realize that it may be a difficult time for them as well. If family and friends are not available, perhaps a support group has planned special activities for that day.
More than ever, you need an interlude of emotional and spiritual rest to get in touch with your memories - a quite walk, meditation, or prayer. There is healing in solitude for respite, reprieve and recreation. "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Caring for yourself is not selfish. Remember, you can't show care for others if you don't care for yourself.
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Change what you can; accept what you cannot.
Our appreciation is extended to Dr. Earl Grollman for writing and guiding the development of this brochure. Dr. Grollman is internationally recognized as a pioneer in family crises intervention and has authored over 17 books on dying, death and bereavement.
Copyright 1989 Batesville Management Services
Generally, grief occurs following a loss by death, but may follow any separation. The bereaved come to accept the separation and to readjust to the environment in which the deceased is missing through a process called "grief work". James R. Hodge, M.D., Staff Psychiatrist at Akron City Hospital, cites ten symptoms that may be experienced as a part of grief. A person may experience each symptom or only a few. Likewise, these symptoms do not necessarily occur in any particular order. The symptoms will vary according to the individual and the nature of the death. These symptoms were published in Today's Health by the American Medical Association. "People are forever changed by the experience of grief in their lives. We, as humans, do not 'get over' our grief, but work to reconcile ourselves to living with it. Anyone who attempts to prescribe a specific time frame for the experience only creates another barrier to the healing process." - Alan Wolfelt, Center For Loss and Life Transition.
Shock and Denial...
"I Just Don't Believe It!"
The first actual announcement that a death has occurred is often shocking. The impact of the tragedy may take a few minutes or a few days to be realized. The unreality of the death may even reoccur occasionally in the future.
Emotional Release - We Express Our Emotions in Different Ways...
"I Can't Stop Crying!"
Crying is a normal reaction to a death. Psychiatrists often emphasize it is a necessity to release tensions and feelings rather than lock them inside. The opportunity to express grief at the funeral with family and friends permits an emotional release, although the grief process usually takes much longer to complete. Every person's grief is unique.
Loneliness - Depressed and Very Lonely...
"Without Him I Might As Well Be Dead!"
A feeling of emptiness may occur after the funeral as friends return to their own activities. Therefore, the feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression become more intense. The thought that no one has ever suffered as much may exist. For some people the lonely feeling leaves suddenly. For others, it may take months to move to the next phase of grief.
Pain - Physical Symptoms of Death...
"I Just Can't Bear It!"
Anxiety and loneliness can create emotional pain. This strain of grief can even cause physical distress. If the physical signs continue for a lengthy period of time, it is possible a healthy adjustment has not occurred.
"Oh, What Am I Going To Do?"
It may become difficult to concentrate on anything because of constant memories of the deceased. In fact, the continual pre-occupation with the loss may cause a person to worry about his own stability. He may fear losing control. Not knowing what to do and not understanding what is happening can result in panic.
"I Should Have Done More For Him."
Frequently survivors recall things that could have been done for the person who died. This realistic guilt is common. Sometimes, a person will experience unrealistic guilt stemming from a situation which was uncontrollable. This type of guilt is irrational and must be discussed. Unresolved guilt, whether "normal" or "neurotic", may be harmful physically and mentally. Often, arranging a meaningful funeral can redirect the feelings of the grieving person into something positive and uplifting.
"Oh, God, Why Me?"
After dealing with personal guilt, it becomes natural to look for someone else to blame. There may be hostility toward the physician, nurses, persons surrounding the accident or anyone who seemingly could have prevented the death. These feelings of anger must be expressed. It is best to disclose them to a tolerant and sympathetic listener.
"Will Life Ever Be Worth Living Again?"
A feeling of weariness develops from depression and frustration. Sometimes, suffering in silence seems easier than socializing. Forcing yourself to get involved in activities will help relieve the depressed feelings. When the despair mounts, contact someone who will listen.
Healing and Hope...
"I Now Realize The Meaning Of Friends."
Through the affection and encouragement of friends and family, gradually a new meaning for life unfolds. As you begin to enter into activities, your mood will brighten, and life will begin to take on a new perspective.
"Knowing I'm Adjusting To Life Again Would Please Him."
The acuteness of the death will diminish as readjustment begins. This stage may take time. Then recalling the deceased becomes a pleasant experience and planning for the future becomes realistic and hopeful.
Promote the "Grief Work"
Face the crisis actively so as to realize the full reality of what has happened. By viewing the body of the deceased and discussing the death with friends at the visitation, you can begin to accept the permanency of the loss. Although it is painful, you begin to realize you don't get over grief, you work through it. It is this pain which activates the healing process.
Surround Yourself With Friends And Family
Begin during the acute phase to accept the sympathy of people. You need their warmth and support at the critical moments and throughout the grief stages. Do not be afraid to cry with them.
Receiving friends at the funeral home is one way to allow others to show they care. Let them know you appreciate their concern.
Avoid Medication Such As Sedatives.
Although drugs may provide some needed relief, they must not be taken for the purpose of avoiding grief entirely. Remember, the "grief work' must be done in order to make the adjustment.
Refrain From Making Hasty Decisions
Immediately taking a trip or changing your residence is not the answer. You must cope with the loss first, knowing that "running away" will not help. Avoid making serious financial decisions until you have had time to secure proper advice.
Recall The Unforgettable Memories
Sometimes bereaved individuals feel the solution to the grief is to attempt to "forget". However, it is good to recall the life of the deceased. By recognizing the wealth of the past, you can understand the grief is worth the time spent together.
Consult With Professionals If Grief Becomes Intense
Feel free to contact your clergyman, physician or funeral director. They are excellent listeners. Those familiar with the grief process may provide valuable counsel.
Avoid Relying Totally On The Advice Of Friends
Often, well-meaning friends may be unfamiliar with the stages of grief or unaware of your true needs. Realize their intentions are certainly in your interest, but sometimes their advice may be misdirected.
Share Your Feelings With Others
Relate your problems and memories to those who will listen. Do not hesitate to repeat these time and again. Revealing your thoughts openly helps to alleviate emotional pain. It also helps to journal your feelings.
Establish Goals For Yourself
Concentrating on serving others and developing new interest will relieve your loneliness and give new purpose to your life. You may volunteer to serve in a charitable organization to help individuals in need. Consider seeking further education, increasing your involvement in work, and joining service or travel clubs as ways of adding new meaning to your life.
Paint a realistic picture of what pain you may face. The "grief work" will help to overcome the intensified pressures of grief. Eventually you will remember the good times, and the bad ones will fade. Remember, when death comes... part of the deceased lives on with the survivor.
Don't Take My Grief Away, Doug Manning, In-Sight Books, Inc.
For Bereaved Grandparents, Margaret Gerner, Centering Corporation
Holiday Help, Sandra Graves, Ph.D., A.T.R. and Sherry Williams, R.M., B.A., Accord, Inc.
Living When Your Loved One Has Died, Earl A. Grollman, Ph.D., Beacon Press
Men and Grief, Carol Staudacher, New Harbinger Publications
No Time For Goodbyes, Janice Lord, Pathfinder Pub. of California
Suicide Survivors, A Guide For Those Left Behind, Adina Wrobleski, Afterwords Publishing
The Bereaved Parent, Harriet Sarnoff Schiff, Viking Penquin
Time Remembered Journal, Earl A Grollman, Ph.D., Beacon Press
Stage 1: To Accept The Reality Of The Loss
The first stage of grieving is to come full face with the reality that the person is dead, that the person is gone and will not return. Many people who have sustained a loss find themselves calling out for the lost person and they sometimes tend to misidentify others in their environment. The opposite of accepting the reality of the loss is not believing through some type of denial. It should be emphasized that after a death it is very normal to hope for a reunion or to assume that the deceased is not gone. However, for most people, this illusion is short-lived, at least for this life; and this enables them to move through to Stage II.
Stage II: To Experience The Pain Of Grief
Experiencing the pain of grief includes the literal physical pain that many people experience and the emotional and behavioral pain associated with loss. It is necessary to acknowledge and work through this pain or it will manifest itself through some symptom or other form of aberrant behavior. One of the aims of grief counseling is to help facilitate people through this difficult second state so they don't carry the pain with them throughout their lives.
Stage III: To Adjust To An Environment In Which The Deceased Is Missing
Adjusting to a new environment means different things to different people, depending on what the relationship was with the deceased and the various roles the deceased played. For many widows it takes a considerable period of time to realize what it is like to live without their husbands. This realization often begins to emerge around three months after the loss and involves coming to terms with living alone, raising children alone, facing an empty house, and managing finances alone.
Stage IV: To Withdraw Emotional Energy And Reinvest It In Another Relationship
The fourth and final stage in the grieving process is to effect an emotional withdrawal from the deceased person so that this emotional energy can be reinvested in another relationship. The fourth stage is hindered by holding on to the past attachment rather than going on and forming new ones. Some people find loss so painful that they make a pact with themselves never to love again. One benchmark of a completed grief reaction is when the person is able to think of the deceased without pain. There is always a sense of sadness when you think of someone who you have loved and lost, but it is a different kind of sadness-it lack the wrenching quality it previously had.
There are many books available on the subject of transition. Because we care, we are providing you with a review of books that we may have or may be found in your local bookstore or library. If you have questions regarding these books or books in any specific area of grief, please give us a call.
Does Anyone Else Hurt This Bad and Live?
By Carlene Vester Eneroth
Practical tips, humor and understanding are given to those who are hurting. Briefly written in a hopeful tone to enlighten and encourage.
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
By Dr. Leo Buscaglia
A metaphorical story of life and death, and the changing seasons of life.
With color photographs.
Remembering with Love
By E. Levang and S. Lise
These messages of hope are short, readable pages that affirm, support, and teach about loss and love.
What Helped Me When My Loved One Died
By Earl A. Grollman
A collection of personal stories from people who have lost loved ones.
Covers a wide range of relationships and ages.
Life After Loss
By Bob Deits
This is one of the wisest, most reassuring, practical, and readable guides available to adults dealing with losses of all kinds.
When Parents Die: A Guide for Adults
By Edward Myers
Explores in detail the emotional impact-depression, sibling conflict, guilt, even physical distress - that a parent's death may cause.
Why are the Casseroles Always Tuna?
By Darcie D. Sims
A loving look at the lighter side of grief that affirms the normalcy of grief again and again through laughter as well as tears.
Empty Cradle, Broken Heart
By Deborah L. Davis
Comprehensive and sensitive book showing a wide range of experiences following the death of a baby and offering ways to cope.
Recovering from the Loss of a Loved One to AIDS
By Katherine Fair Donnelly
This book is filled with front-line vignettes that are revealing and compassionate. The author has accomplished something remarkable; a written support group for everyone-grieving families, friends, and caregivers.
Words I Never Thought to Speak
By Victoria Alexander
Skillfully edited stories of many who have lost someone through suicidal death, have grieved their losses, and gained resiliency.
By Sherry Gibson
Offers many practical and creative ways newly bereaved people can cope with loss during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.