An old friend of mine lost his wife a few months ago and is still grieving considerably over his loss. During that difficult time, as I’ve watched and offered support, I’ve learned quite a great deal about the grieving process.
First, the grieving process takes time and is a very personal and individual experience. I have learned that it is important to acknowledge the grief and allow it to happen. Why? Because it helps with the healing process. Healing takes time and can’t be forced or rushed. And there is no normal timeframe for grieving. Some people improve within weeks, others months. There are some, whom, after a year experience grief, especially at special occasions such as a birthdays or holidays.
We normally associate grief with the death of a loved one, but any type of loss can cause grief, such as divorce, loss of job, decline in health, a miscarriage, loss of financial stability, etc. Anyone can experience grief and loss. How a person grieves depends on life experience, coping style, nature of the loss, their faith and level of attachment to the loss.
Feelings that one can experience when they are grieving include shock and disbelief, sadness, guilt, anger and fear. Typically after a loss it can be hard to accept what has happened. They may feel numb and have a difficult time believing that the loss really happened.
With sadness, extreme sadness is a typical symptom of grief. People may feel loneliness, despair, or yearning. They may also cry a lot. Some feel guilt or regret a out things they did not did not do or say. They may also feel guilty about feeling relieved when the person dies after a long difficult illness.
Anger can be experienced and they may be angry at God, the doctors or the person who died for abandoning them. A loss can also bring on fears and worries. Some tend to feel helpless, anxious and experience panic attacks. Sometimes the death of a loved one can trigger fears about ones own mortality.
Grief is not only an emotional process, but can cause physical problems as well. For example, insomnia, weight loss or weight gain, fatigue, nausea, etc.
It is important to facilitate the acceptance of the loss and encourage the family to use their support system. It is important to listen, validate that they need time to grieve and honor specific requests of the family and support cultural and religious preferences.
Bereavement is the time after a loss during which grief is experienced and mourning occurs. When the person grieving is able to talk about the loss without having the same intensity of emotion in the beginning, then they have probably reached some level of healing.
My friend continues to heal while burying himself in his self run business, Party Bus SF, where he operates limo style buses. I pray that with time, he will heal but remember and celebrate the memories of her life as they were a wonderful couple.