REDEEMING THE TEARS
In the 1960’s, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about the five stages of grief. As popular as those stages became, research has proven that grief is much messier than five stages. Without a doubt, grief is a universal experience tied to losses of many types. Those can be loss through relationship breakdowns, divorce, job termination, illness or injury (causing loss of independence), death of loved ones, and even the loss of a pet. The list goes on.
What is very important to note is that everyone’s loss and grief journey is unique. The journey is not set in stone. Sometimes, the stages of grief overlap or may even be omitted altogether. One thing is for certain. Understanding these elements can be very helpful in identifying some of the emotions you may experience.
Over the next few months, let’s look at these different elements or stages.
An early effect may involve numbed disbelief in response to news of a loss. This stage may serve as an emotional buffer to prevent someone from feeling overwhelmed. Many times, this is the first reaction to news that a loved one has passed. Many will report this numbness, a phase when they don’t feel anything in the initial days and maybe even weeks or months. And this can be very surprising to many, especially because the affected person doesn’t feel the devastation that most expect a person to feel.
While this numbness is so real, this phase comes at a time when emotions typically are the most profound. The fact that you have experienced a loss may be evident, but you may still have feelings of shock, disbelief, or even panic as you try deal with the situation.
SHOCK IS A BIGGY
Shock is a biggy. I have heard that when we suddenly learn of tragedy, the brain and central nervous system immediately act. They cover our emotions with a protective “blanket” commonly known as shock. Shock, also referred to as the trauma membrane, allows us to function in our lives without feeling severe pain. Those who have experienced shock often report feeling a strange sense of “unreality,” a numbness and distortion of time and space. It is also common to experience difficulty sleeping and changes to appetite. This is very normal; it means your brain and central nervous system are taking good care of you. Shock is typically experienced as one of the first stages in the grief process, and eventually it wears off. For some, shock recedes very quickly. For others, shock lasts for hours or days.
EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT
Please remember that there is no right or wrong way to experience shock. Everyone is different. And as shock fades away, emotion gradually makes its way to the surface. An emotional trauma is similar to a physical injury. If we cut our finger, for example, the first thing we usually want to do is wash it. Similarly, our emotions wash and cleanse emotional injuries. Tears, anger, and fearful feelings wash our emotional wounds and prepare them for healing. It is normal to feel a “roller coaster” of emotions following the shock stage.
NATURE’S WAY OF HEALING
Friend, grief is nature’s way of healing. If we can cooperate with grief and allow it to take us through its natural process, we can be healed and whole. If we resist grief, we sometimes feel stuck in our pain.
SUGGESTIONS FOR HOW TO COPE WITH GRIEF
Suggestions abound as to how to cope with grief. Here are some things you might do:
- Share – Share feelings with those we love and trust. Talk about it!
- Pray – Pray, meditate, or attend religious services.
- Creativity – Use creative outlets: journal writing, music, painting, etc.
- Exercise – Release your stress and maintain your physical health.
- Activities – Engage in activities that let you get in touch with yourself. Self-reflect. Find a support group.
Now, equally as beneficial, when coping with tragedy, are these things to be avoided:
- Too much alcohol – Excessive alcohol consumption and drug use.
- Too much food – Excessive eating in an effort to dull emotional pain.
- Denial – Denying the tragedy and its personal impact.