There is no individualized guidebook to teach how to react to a devastating loss.
There are experts who offer information on the process of grieving, the stages of grieving and the types of grief.
But they are not able to create a handbook specific to your situation. It’s impossible. And even if you know everything there is to know about grief when you experience a loss, all that information is forgotten.
This happens because your world has just been turned upside down without your permission. The death of someone you love is out of your control and that may be one of the hardest aspects to accept.
When you lose someone, you just want the world to stop spinning around you. You want to be alone but no one will leave you alone. You want to run away but have nowhere to go. You just want one more day with the one you lost.
Grief like this can cause problems for you if you get stuck in the grieving process. There is even a name for it. It’s called complicated bereavement disorder.
Complicated Bereavement Disorder
The typical grief cycle, according to the experts, averages about six months. Meaning, for six months, people are somewhat impaired by their grief. Their concentration is affected, sleep is affected and other emotional restraints are felt.
After six months, most people start to adjust to their new life without the one they lost.
Anything longer than six months starts to fall under what is called complicated bereavement disorder. This disorder is characterized by a severe inability to function is both personal and professional areas of your life.
You may have insomnia, extreme anger and cannot focus on anything but the person you lost. These traits prevent you from working or participating in daily routines.
It is almost as if you are stuck in the grieving process and do not know how to move forward. You may not even want to move forward. However, grieving has specific stages that you go through and each stage has the significance that can aid you in recovering from this tragedy.
Stages of Grief
The stages of grief are not absolutes. Each person’s grief process is different. However, the stages do give you an idea of the emotions that can take place after you lose a loved one.
The first stage is denial. This means you are feeling like the loss is not real. You are not ready to accept the events that took something away from you. Isolation can often seem comforting during this time. The more people around, the more it reminds you that the situation is real.
Denial is part of a defense system your body creates to protect you. It prevents you from being overwhelmed by too much grief, more than you can handle at one time.
After denial is anger. This is when you get mad for being left by the one you love. You are here having to deal with all of the stressors by yourself. You are overwhelmed and the one person you may turn to for help is no longer with you.
The next stage involves bargaining. You want to go back in time and change the outcome. You realize the one you love is gone but you want to reverse this reality. You begin bargaining with God and with your pain and whoever else will listen.
You agree to things you know you can’t achieve to bring back your loved one. You agree to never get angry again, to go to church every week, to give to the needy and even be nice to your in-laws. You will do all of this to change the circumstances.
When you realize bargaining will never work, depression creeps in. Your sadness is associated with the realization that they are gone and there is nothing you can do to bring them back. This is an appropriate time to seek help from a grief counselor or support group.
Getting help during this time can help you move into the acceptance phase. This does not mean you are forgetting about your loved one. It simply means you are learning to live without them in your life anymore. You must keep living. Therefore, it is important you learn how to do so in a healthy way. You can also learn to carry on the legacy of the one you lost.
Getting stuck in any one of these stages can be dangerous for your mental health. There are several steps you can take to ensure you do not get stuck. These steps involve changing the way you think, feel and act.
Change Your Thinking
Your thoughts control how you function in life. If you constantly think negative thoughts, you will experience a negative lifestyle. If you have positive thoughts, your life will be positive. Yes, it’s hard to think positive when you are facing a crisis.
The more you try to change your thinking, though, the better you can overcome such tragedies. Instead of thinking you can’t go on with your loved one, try thinking of ways to make your loved one proud. Think of positive ways to honor your loved one.
Joining a grief support group is one of the best things you can do for yourself when experiencing grief. Everyone at this group knows exactly how you feel and exactly what you are going through. Some of them will be further along in their grief process and some will be just beginning.
You will even be able to help others who are suffering. When you give back, your mental health benefits.
It is also beneficial to seek counseling for your family, as a group. You are not the only one who is grieving over the loss of your loved one. Their family, your children, their friends, and anyone else who was close to the person who passed away can benefit from working with a counselor.
As a group, you can all learn how to grieve together and individually.
Do something positive for your loved one who passed. Start a scholarship fund, hold a memorial fundraiser, or even write a book. Taking actions such as these will help you focus on something other than your grief.
Other ideas include marathon events, speaking events, and sporting events. Make it an annual event to celebrate the person you lost.
Finding purpose in life after a tragedy will help you move forward and keep living.