When we first suffer a loss—a spouse, parent, sibling, friend, even a pet—we may initially feel numb. We may go into "auto-pilot," just making the decisions that need to be made. Later we may feel angry, guilty, overwhelmed. We may wonder if we can possibly ever feel all right again. We also suffer grief when we or someone we love faces a serious health condition, as our dreams for the future are threatened.
Some griefs can be more complicated than others. (This does not mean any grief is "easy" or "smooth.") For example, if someone you love died by suicide, you may feel intense guilt or stigma on top of shock and sadness. You may feel all alone with your pain. If you have lost a loved one to suicide, help is also available from Survivors After Suicide | Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center.
Feelings that arise with grief include shock, anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, possibly guilt, and depression. Crying, some trouble sleeping, or a decrease in appetite are normal following a loss. But if you have physical symptoms that are of concern to you or others, or if you feel helplessness, hopelessness, or are thinking about suicide, please get professional help right away. Sometimes the intensity of feelings in grief are overwhelming, and you deserve help and support. If you feel "stuck" in grief for a long period of time, you may also benefit from help, as you may be experiencing a complicated grief reaction.
The dictionary definition of "convalescence" is "gradual return to health and strength after an illness." Approaching grief like an illness can help us to be patient with ourselves during the process. To heal, we must first accept the loss as real (this doesn't mean it feels OK). Gradually, we experience the pain of the loss, readjust and reinvent our world in which our lost one is missing. Eventually we can move forward into new relationships without forgetting the old ones. And yes, many people experience positive feelings during the grief process, like relief, and happiness that their loved one is no longer suffering.
When you suffer a loss, you may feel like a bare, leafless tree in winter. It's hard to imagine the leaves will ever reappear. Although it may take longer than the passage of one season to the next, eventually, often when you least expect it, you see a glimmer of new green leaf.
Although our lives will not return to the way they were, if we let grief transform us (knowing the best way "out" is "through"), we will grow, becoming stronger, wiser, and more compassionate. I provide support and hope as you weather the storms of your personal grief process.