Is My Grief Natural or Complicated?

is-my-grief-natural-or-complicatedThe following reactions are to be expected to some degree during grief, but they can be handled with an attentive, healthy attitude that encourages healing.

  • Anger – Admit it. Anger is no cause for shame. It is a legitimate human emotion. Slow down long enough to figure out the exact cause of the anger. Act it out in a constructive way. Physical exercise, crying, and praying/meditating can help release feelings of anger. Also, talking with a non-judgmental listener can be a good way to let go of feelings associated with anger. Once you get your anger out in the open, don’t put it back on your shoulders.
  • Guilt – Feelings of guilt are very normal during grief. To review time spent with a loved one who has died, thinking, “If only I’d done this or that differently” is often part of the grieving process. If there is a real reason for the guilt, forgive yourself. If not, talking it out helps to weaken the impact of unreal guilt. The guilty feelings and questioning usually disappear within a few months.
  • Estrangement – Once the intense socialization of the funeral is over, people seem to avoid survivors for many reasons. This is the time when many people need to talk, but the avoidance of friends causes the mourner to withdraw. They feel estranged or alienated. They may refuse to leave the house. Some might say “I’m not ready to go out among people yet.” Go out on brief errands at first. Extend the trips gradually to make up more time and to include more contact with people.
  • Running (staying too busy, going constantly) – Most people who run are afraid of experiencing the pain of loss. Talk about your losses with a trusted friend. Facing the pain diminishes it and removes the reason for running. There is joy in remembering.
  • Shrine Building – Not touching the deceased’s room or belongings is sometimes seen as respect for the person who died. There should be no sense of urgency to dispose of these items. It may take a while to be in an emotional space to do that. Don’t rush yourself. You will do it when the time is right.
  • Perpetuation of Grief – There are secondary benefits to grief. The warmth and closeness shown to the mourner in early grief is often a cherished experience. It is possible to want to keep grief alive to continue the closeness and warmth received from others.
  • Loss of Identity – This is a loss within a loss. Grieving and mourning the loss of the identity of who we were with the person who died accompanies the actual loss. The search for a new identity (or role) must be discovered and begun anew.
  • Some Unhealthy Grief Reactions – Professional Help Should be Sought:
    • Prolonged over-activity to avoid feelings
    • Taking on the symptoms of the deceased’s illness
    • Radical change in social relationships
    • Prolonged listlessness
    • Self-destructive behavior patterns such as alcohol and/or drug abuse and eating disorders

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