What to do when grief hits, and how to work through
1. More people are living alone
2. Grief comes in many forms of loss
3. Recognizing Grief Symptoms – physical and emotional
4. Time Frame for Grief
Home Alone with Grief
The New York Times (2012) reported that 50% of 311 Million in the US are living alone, whereas in 1950 only 22% of American adults lived alone according to sociology professor Eric Klinenberg in his new book Going Solo. This is a huge trend and reports that half the residences in Manhattan are one person dwellings. Globally there are some 277 million people living along. According to his research those who chose the single life are far happier and do find their “own tribe”.
This is an interesting statement for many reports proclaim differently. However, he doesn’t give an age range of those singletons he interviewed. Living alone while you are employed and socializing with your colleagues I can see that this would be true. However, for those unemployed, retired even, where do they find their social connections?
According to a recent article in the Daily Mail, one third of Britain’s live alone. People living alone are more susceptible to depression. It seems living the solo lifestyle could also cause poor mental health. “We know loneliness is a major factor in depression” states Consultant Dr. Adrian Winbow, at Fitzroy Square Hospital in London.
Having supportive people around to talk to when you are grieving is so important to help you when inevitable loss does hit.
Grief can be experienced not only from a death, but through job loss, divorce, death of a pet, or a relationship breakup. Kenneth J. Doka, PhD calls these disenfranchised grief because these losses are unacknowledged by Society. Often those grieving from any one of these disenfranchised losses are made to feel guilty. Others often feel uncomfortable around them and so distance themselves. They become “invisible mourners” (Rosaldo, 1989).
Death is normal and inevitable however, our modern society in its discomfort around death has distanced itself. Once the family would deal with the many aspect of a death but today this has become very clinical and invisible. This leaves many today unfamiliar as they have not had the opportunity to participate in death related experiences.
Given these statistics it is important for those living alone and dealing with grief from some loss to recognize the symptoms.
Common symptoms of grief are:
Shock and disbelief – this is the body’s defense mechanism to protect the mind, while numbing the body. This numbing helps you to process only what your minds believes you can handle. It may be difficult to accept right now what has happened. It is normal that you may be in denial, just know this is the bodies way of protecting. It is common to expect that the person will show up even though you know the person has died.
Sadness – is an emotion you will feel when something or someone you value has been taken away. It is normal to feel such a tremendous sadness. You may experience a deep despair, such as yearning or even such loneliness. It is also normal to feel that you are emotional and cry easily.
Guilt – can be experienced as an uncomfortable feeling that comes about when you think or feel that you have done something wrong. It is possible that you will feel guilty for not doing enough or even may believe you could have prevented the death. Guilt can also be experienced when you feel relieved that a person has died after a lengthy illness
Anger – can arise when someone you love is taken away. It is normal to want to blame others and hit out as your anger arises. It is the doctors or nurses fault. It is also possible that you will be angry at yourself for the person leaving you, you may even feel abandoned and this thought causes you to feel anger.
Fear – arises as a worry or even panic when you think about how you may cope without the person. You may even become anxious or feel helpless are you now faced with many more responsibilities. With a death you may expect it to trigger fears of our own immortality.
Physical symptoms – such as fatigue, nausea, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains , a lowered immune system experiences more colds or illness in general or insomnia. These can all be experienced during the grieving process.
It is so important to find support after a loss so as to have someone accompany you in your grief. Choosing a few close friend or family members that you can turn to will help you not to feel so alone at this time. Many will turn to find comfort in their faith. They may join a support group, talk to a therapist or grief counselor or coach. This is a time to take care of yourself. For many the grief symptoms will start to recede between 1-3 months. Certainly 6 month to a year you will be returning to your new life without the person. By year two you are functioning well and are able to speak about your loved one without the tears. This is when you will feel joy in your heart when you talk about them. However, there seems to be no real time frame for the grief process. It is such an individual process, for some they can feel better in weeks or months, For others, the grieving process is measured in years. If after 6 months you are still experiencing grief symptoms that just won’t improve. It is time to seek medical advice. Too often a person can slip into a depression. It is important however to believe that you will recover from your grief and take action to work towards that.
Life is about decisions, will your thoughts and decisions hold you back?
1. Listen to Brendon and decide for you self (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFf3A- G0JSx_KiA0JtdwoV.)
2. Can you see how grief may have caged you?
3. How would you describe your life before the death?
4. What changes if any would you make now?
What will you Choose?
Caged, Comfortable or Charged Life: When I heard Brendon Bouchard speak on his latest video on the this idea, I couldn’t help thinking that people in grief could be described of as being caged. Their Grief and pain could make them feel they too were in a cage, trapped and perhaps angry. This led me to consider how I could help others better understand what grief is all about by using Brendon’s example.
Perhaps if I could lead them and show them a way through their sadness, hopelessness and struggle in every day life then I could prevent them from falling further down into Grief’s Abyss?
Alice remarked (from Alice in Wonderland) “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then”. The same can be said for the realization that grieving is required after a loss, your life is different and you are different because of it. You may no longer be a spouse, a parent, a son/daughter. It is coming to this acceptance and realization in your life that eventually brings you to that peace you have been wanting, needing and searching for. You are so far down into the Abyss that life can look hopeless. For it is dark, cold and lonely down there, far from your friends and family. You are cut off. You don’t realize it but you have chosen to react this way, to cut your self off and isolate. This is necessary at the time so that you can turn to your own self for comfort and healing in making sense of the chaos. You can attend to your feelings and sort them out. But this isn’t the way, you need to reach out and find someone, a friend or family member who can safely bring you back to the sunlight and out of the darkness you have been in.
When the decision is made to look to your own life and stop living in the “what ifs and should s” that can keep you stuck, you can then begin to reconnect from the grief and back to your life. A life you have essentially put on hold. It is waiting and once you reconnect, you can view it through a much different lens. You get to see anew from the eyes of the different person you have become. Just like water dripping onto rock to create change and growth or swollen rivers in spring thaw, you can carve out a different path. Your sadness and tears have carved out a difference in your self. You may find that your grief once behind you allows you to see where your life was Comfortable before and “just fine” but there was something missing. You didn’t notice it before your loss, because you didn’t know you were dissatisfied in some way. It is through this carving out of your life that you can see things differently. This is often when you may decide to live differently, make the changes that you need. Your soul is moving you along. The status quo is no longer acceptable. Just like the swollen river you need to find your new path.
Often through your discomfort and dissatisfaction you will find it is the desire for change that will prompt you to move, leave your job and relationships that no longer serve you. You may become restless and start searching, perhaps take personal growth classes or go back to school. Your life is not over, it just hasn’t begun. There is an excitement and purpose you feel each new day as you look to your brighter future you know is awaiting you.
Evolution has ensured that we humans do not remain static but are forever moving forward to expand and grow. How else do we as a Society move onwards and forwards? We get to grow through the challenges we face. It is in the wanting always to improve on the lives of those who went before us. This is what loss, grief and sadness can help us do. This is the function they have in our lives. They help us reflect on the past and the life we had with the person we have lost and also we know the person we now need to become.
The sadness, hopelessness and grief have left. You are new, shinny and wanting to expand and grow. You are ready to find your Charged life. The life you know is waiting for you out there. You are ready now, you have been reconnected, you have found your energy once more and with the courage of a warrior, you step out of your smallness into a brand new life. A life that has been waiting and longing for you to find it. Will you step out into your new Charged Life, as Brendon recommends?
The lessons a good old fashioned story teaches
1. No preplans and the consequences
2. The importance of friends and family
3. The needs to healing a funeral provides
Life End – Being Prepared
Nessa and Fredie have been watching TV waiting for their mother to return so they could all have supper before going out to the fair. Suddenly their TV show stops and they are faced with this scene of a house falling on their mother – she is dead!
The two run out of the house to where the event happened, only to find many of the villagers there watching and giving their opinions. Glinda the good witch saw them and goes over to them. She is so helpful and kind even though the children know their mother disliked Glinda intensely, perhaps even hated her. They were glad Glinda was there with them. She told them what had happened to their mother and offered to help them both. The two children were so thankful. Their mother was the only family they had. Glinda was sharing with them all the things that would need to be taken care of. They could hardly think of what to do next. They were both in shock.
Glinda asked them if their mother had ever discussed with them her wishes for when she died? They both shook their heads and replied No, they said when asked, their mother had always replied that she would never die, she would live forever and they weren’t to worry about it.
A very common mistake, Glinda thinks, everyone more or less hopes that but we know we will all die someday, we just never know when. We think that we can deal with it tomorrow, but of course, we know that day never comes.
Glinda assured them that it will be okay. Many families are reluctant to speak about their own deaths, no one really likes to talk about it.
I wish we had would have had a discussion of some sort, says Nessa. It would make all these decisions easier for us. My head hurts already and I just don’t know where to start, there are so many things to think about and to do. We wish we had close family nearby but after father left mother, she became so bitter and hateful that she soon alienated all her friends and any family she had many years ago. So they had no one essentially. Glinda reassures them that she was there for them, their mother had once been a close friend. Fredie gives her a big hug and thanks her for standing by them at such a time. What did they need to do first, he asked?
Glinda tells them they should all have a cup of hot sweet tea. They were all in shock and the sweet tea would help them. She goes off to prepare the tea and asks Nessa to get a pen and paper so they could write everything down and make a plan of what needed to be done. Glinda asked them a total of 87 questions. All necessary and part of the planning process.
After several hours they had made their list of decisions that were required to be made upon someones death. During that time, Freddie had found the black box their mother kept all her important papers in under the floor boards. To their surprise, they found that their mother had actually made a will after all. Everything was left to the children. That was a relief Glinda thought, at least everything will not be tied up in Probate waiting for a judge to release the home and all their mother’s assets. The children were at least safeguarded there. There would be some money and a roof over their heads at least.
Now came the hard part, Glinda said they would need to think about whether their mother would have wanted to be buried or cremated? A pity their mother hadn’t completed that part too. This was the hardest on the children. It would be hard for any family member to have to deal with. Then they would have to decide what type of casket, where they would bury her, and would there be a funeral? Glinda felt she would leave these questions until tomorrow. She suggested that the children could come home with her so as not to be on their own. Although they were 19 & 20 and considered adults, they could stay there alone she thought but it would be nicer for them to have someone else around. They agreed to go with her and off they went.
After breakfast, Glinda asked the children those hard questions and after many tears, stops and starts they made their decisions and now they could go to the funeral home to finalize them.
The funeral director was a friendly person and soon took the two under his wing to help them out. He did a lot of the work, and asked only minimal questions to spare them further pain. They had decided to have a funeral service, although they didn’t expect many people to come, they felt they needed to have it, some kind of ritual to speak and to remember their mother by. The Obituary for the paper was drafted and all the arrangements were finally completed.
They left the funeral home feeling very drained and very unsure of what their lives would look like now. Everything had changed. It was a tragic time for them Glinda thought. She was glad she had decided to forgive the old hatreds that had built up over the years between the two once friends. This allowed Glinda to help her old friend’s children.
The service and funeral was held and their mother was finally put to rest. The service had turned out to be so comforting, additional seating had to be brought in as many had come to support them. They had been given so many meals that they wouldn’t have to worry for a while about cooking. Best of all this man had introduced himself to them – he was their father. He had always wanted to be a part of their lives but their mother, who had her reasons, he said, had insisted that he kept away. So he had, not wishing to incur her wrath. Now they could come and live with him.
Like all good stories there is always a happy ending.
The moral, plan your funeral ahead of time so as not to leave everything to your loved one to decide. They will be in grief and not at their best to make decisions. It is a times like this, you don’t pay attention to costs. You just want to get it over with and out of there. A costly mistake. Take time to have these conversations with your loved ones over the years about your wants and their needs. Yes, it is uncomfortable but it can all be done with love.
The Importance of Grief and Moving through
- Don’t Grieve alone – seek help from others
- Give yourself permission to cry
- The Importance of Emotions
- Completing unfinished Business
Grief – Not a time for Etiquette
A few years ago in just one moment my life went from a normal day at the office into shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, shame, fear and sadness. All classic symptoms of grief, the cause, my Dad died before I got to the hospital. My life was forever different, I would be changed by the event. I just didn’t know by how much.
Fast forward to now, I changed careers and am now a Grief Coach. I want to accompany others through this extremely emotional and confusing time. Thoughts such as what will your new life look like without them? That person was always there regardless of your relationship with them. There was comfort in knowing you were not alone. It is time to reach out to friends and family and talk about it. This helps make it real for you.
Your first reaction may be denial, to run away or get caught up in the business of work life, neither of these will not bring relief. It will be a distraction and a way your emotions will be held at bay and not dealt with. These aren’t ways out, I know I have been there. This will only help keep you in this state or you could fall into a depression and not want to get out of bed. You may feel alone and don’t turn to others because they wouldn’t understand or wouldn’t know how to help you. This approach doesn’t work either. The saying speaks for itself “Misery loves company”. The longer you remain alone, the worse you are actually going to feel. Two to 3 weeks are considered OK anything longer is time to seek medical help.
When Grief strikes it is so much better if you can accept whatever it is you are feeling. It is where you are at right now in this moment. Be kind to yourself and recognize no amount of reproach will bring the person back. It is the connection to that person and what that person meant to you in your life that is causing the pain and heartache. It will take your brain and heart time to accept.
Grief is like starting a new job, at first there is a big learning curve and it can be scary, you are uncertain on so many levels. After 6 months to 1 year you become at ease with yourself as you make new connections and see for yourself the difference you are making. By year two you are feeling comfortable enough to decide if you are going to stay or move on (an example given by Dr. Lori Kay).
Take time to work through your emotions and give yourself permission to cry. Crying releases toxins from the body, cleanses the eyes and sinuses. It also can help to calm the body down. Feeling immense sadness can hit at any time. If you can allow its release by crying, this will help sadness move through you. It is when we stop ourselves from crying because you are in a public place. Waiting until you are home before allow yourself to cry is often too late, the moment has passed. Emotions come in waves and if you accept and watch them they will move through you much more quickly than if you stop them.
Instead welcome them in and experience them when they come to visit. Treat them like welcome visitors, sit down and have tea with them and talk. You will be surprised at what they can teach you. I’m writing this for both men and women. Grief affect us all, although men have a harder time allowing themselves to be emotional, instead they have to think their way out. Don’t, stop, no fixing, just allow. Perhaps join a men’s group to help you process your grief. I cannot repeat enough. Don’t do grief alone, seek help and talk it out. Grief needs to be accompanied, seek support.
It is also important to complete unfinished business. It is never too late to forgive and apologize for things you have done or the other way round too, things they may have done. It is also a good idea to write a letter to the deceased explaining to them all the things they did that you’re upset over. This allows you to get it off your mind and onto paper. If you choose to write a letter include 3-4 things that you appreciated about them and thank them. This helps to balance the letter and lets you see how life has ups and downs. By choosing to forgive another is a way of letting go of what you think should or should not have happened. It does not mean you condone their behaviour or actions. It means that you are no longer going to remain a victim, a victim to your thoughts or beliefs. Forgiveness is a decision to let go of anger and resentment that can keep you holding on. Forgiveness and expressing appreciation are ways you can make peace with the past.
When Father Dies
It doesn’t matter how old you are when a parent dies, the pain of not having them in your life is just as great regardless of age. That small child each of us carries within, cannot imagine a life without their parents. When one dies you get a glimpse of your new reality. This can bring about many fears and wonderment about how you will cope without them in your life.
With the death of our fathers, we do now have to grow up.
1. Fathers as role models for future men in our lives?
2. The beliefs we learn unconsciously from them
3. Fathers as the roots for the family
Our Role Models
Whatever the relationship with our fathers was, good, bad or darn right ugly, they were the first men in our lives. They were the ones who unconsciously would teach us about love. If like me your father was distant, you may spend your life attempting to be validated for who you are or to be noticed at least. When these needs are not fulfilled by our fathers, we later seek them to be met by our boyfriends. Then by our husbands. These males were our first role models whether we like it or not.
Roots & Beliefs
Fathers are the roots of the family, they keep their family safe and together. They were the breadwinners, the sole providers for their families (well in the 1950’s). These men are the ones we will forever model our future relationships after.
Now for the first time in our lives, we are without them. We now have to grow up and become the adult child our bodies show us to be. This takes time and we have to face all kinds of fears in the interim.
Relationship with Father
My relationship with my father was not a close one until near the end. At times he was silent, distant, or moody, making him quite difficult to read or get to really know. His dislikes were my boyfriends and spending money. I discovered many of my beliefs came from him, such as “hard work never hurt anyone and money certainly didn’t grow on trees”! Dad, however, had many loves. Art brought him joy, he’d spend hours drawing and painting. He even dabbled in photography. He was a drummer and could play classical guitar too. If I were to show an interest in any of these pursuits he would go off and return with a book or make an effort to show me how. Of course, I was never really that interested or just too busy raising my family to really get interested to learn what he wanted to teach me.
My Father, My Teacher
It wouldn’t be until the Christmas following his death when my husband bought me a full painting set did I really realize the error of my ways. For the moment I decided to paint, I realized I didn’t know how and of course I wished I had taken the time to learn from him. It may even have brought us closer sooner.
He did have a sense of humor when he wanted to and would entertain guests at many a New Year’s house parties at our home. He enjoyed those but hated dances, crowds or even to have fun well to me it seemed. However, he did have fun in his own solitary way, he enjoyed the simple things in life that’s all.
He had always been there for me I have to admit for advice and support. He was my oak tree but then his roots weakened and like all weakened trees they fall over. So sadly did he. Suddenly and really with no warning but if our eyes had of been wide open we would have seen the signs long before. Like everything unpleasant in life, we chose to ignore them and by doing so it would make it all go away.
I had to grow up that day. Something I didn’t want to do because at that moment he handed the reigns over to me, his eldest daughter. There was after all his wife, my mother to now look after.
Fortunately for me, we still have the heart of the family, our mother. Ever so slowly the large hole left by father has begun to fill in once more as we move on with our lives and onto a new one, one that doesn’t for the first time include him.
Not all Relationships are Loving
Of course, not everyone’s relationship with their Father is a loving one. Many women can fall into guilt if they feel thankful and relieved at news of their Father’s death or fall into despair over who will love them now? The loss of a parent can throw your life into disarray, you feel unable to cope, lack energy unable to make decisions even. That was me many years ago, I couldn’t find answers as to why or what was going on with me so I decided to go on my own journey. I sought the support of a coach who helped me get my life together again. I even wrote a book that I would have found helpful during my time with grief. This was my father’s legacy and now I guide other’s through their grief. You don’t have to suffer in silence or alone – reach out, please?