The Process of Grieving

"I must be losing my mind!"

The thought was not new---I had thought it several times in the weeks since the funeral. But I still felt out of control of my emotions, I couldn't make decisions, and life was one perpetual fog.

It frightened me. I feared I would never regain composure, and never be able to live with sanity again.

Have you felt it too? 

I was relieved to find out that others had felt the same thing. Actually, if I had carefully read the brochure the funeral director gave me on the day we buried my husband, I would have understood better that this confusion was to be expected. It was part of the process.

I finally decided since I had to go through it, I'd better set out to understand the grieving process.

There are some pretty generally accepted stages that we go through as we mourn the death of a loved one. The following list is compiled from many sources, and may help you to better understand what to expect as you make your way down this rocky path we call grieving.

The steps are:

Shock
Denial
Confusion
Emotional Release
Anger
Guilt
Depression and Isolation
Recovery 

Most people go through each of these steps, sometimes even more than once before they reach the place where they feel fully recovered. 

Some I went through fairly quickly; others I still see manifest in my life. Confusion sometimes rears its head, and emotional release will still reduce me to tears at unexpected moments. (I teach music lessons, and two weeks ago on Marty’s birthday each time I wrote the date on a student’s assignment sheet, I felt that familiar tightening in my throat, and my eyes would begin to swim with tears, and only through sheer force was I able to hold them back. As my last student walked out of the house, I gave in, and the tears just flowed. I was overcome with the old questions of why it had to end up this way, why it couldn’t have been different. It took me several moments to come out of that mindset, and to be composed again.) 

However, on the whole, I feel I am well on my way to recovery. Those times when I am unexpectedly overcome are few and far between.

I have found the most helpful attitude toward my grief was to allow myself to feel it! I had to make a conscious decision to allow myself to admit my weakness and my need for support, and then accept help when it was offered to me. 

I suggest others determine to grieve as long as it takes. When unbidden tears come, cry them out! Let it happen. Feel the pain, all the while affirming yourself, “Yes, this is tragic! It does hurt, and that is natural - and it's okay.”

In our culture, we are uncomfortable when people cry, but we have to accept that it is all right to cry. 
Deanna Edwards, the author of Grieving, the Pain and the Promise relates that tears may even drain the body of harmful chemicals present with grief. She tells of a young boy who, after the death of his father, said, “Tears are the way God gave us to let the hurt out.” 

If we look at tears and the racking sobbing as cleansing and as the body's way of releasing the pain and sorrow, they can become healing. It is important that those around us know this, and that they try to be comfortable around us when we weep, and allow us to need their hugs and smiles and love for a long time---as long as it takes!

I am grateful for those who aren't embarrassed or uncomfortable with my tears, but just show acceptance and love.

I have found that the journey though grief is one of self-discovery and an opportunity to grow, and eventually move on to a deeper appreciation of life. 

May you be blessed as you walk the path, and know that we are here to walk beside you when you need it.

-Roslyn

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