As someone who provides support to the bereaved, I have had the honor of coming alongside a multitude of grieving individuals. Although everyone I see has a different set of circumstances and is unique, there are also commonalities. One statement I frequently hear from the newly bereaved is “I feel like I am losing my mind”. For me, this statement speaks to the intensity of emotion and the changes that can come along with grief.
When we suffer the death of a loved one or someone with whom we are very attached, we can experience a myriad of emotions. As physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and social beings, grief can affect us in each of these areas. Physically we can experience headaches, stomach trouble, heart palpitations and more. We may be lethargic and have no energy. Emotionally, grief can be experienced by an initial numbing (which serves as a kind of emotional self-protection), sorrow, despair, fear, , etc. There can also be relief and a lack of sorrow which in turn can create feelings of guilt and judgment. Cognitively it may be hard to think, concentrate, remember or even follow a conversation. Socially, we may want to withdraw, isolate, and have no interests. Spiritually we may question our belief system and be thrown into an existential crisis so to speak. Is it any wonder we may question our “grip on reality”.
It is important not to judge ourselves for how we experience the death of a loved one. It is a very personal journey based on the relationship we shared based on our personality, our history of grief and loss, and so on. In our Western culture, we tend to minimize grief and try to ignore it. We lean towards thinking we should “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps” and move on. For the honest, self-reflective griever, we know mourning takes time and hard work. This hard work can include journaling, support groups, prayer, memorializing, support of friends and family, professional support, and… talk, talk, talk….
I have a wise friend who says to grief well it takes “time, talking and tears”