Is there such a thing as normal during grief?
When we lose one of the people closest to us we can feel frozen, our entire lives change in one second and we can often struggle to regulate ourselves. So this can present the question, “What is normal?” when it comes to grief.
You are standing on the other side of trauma, losing someone you love, or even someone you had a strained relationship with can be extremely traumatic. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to let go of the idea that there is a right or wrong way to walk through grief. Whatever feelings you are experiencing are valid, we encourage you to try to recognize those feelings and give them a name and give yourself a lot of grace. There is no expectation for you to be okay with the experience of losing someone you cared deeply about. Please be patient with yourself and those who are doing their best to support you.
One question that we get often is about your person’s belongings. How long should you keep them? The best answer we can give is that you should do what is right for you. Some people may get comfort from their loved ones’ belongings and others may receive the opposite effect. We encourage you to listen to your heart and not make any big decisions when you are experiencing intense emotions.
There is often a stigma attached with outwardly expressing your grief, as a culture we are death avoidant. We know that death happens, we see it happening with our friends and family but it is still painfully difficult for us to discuss. What we end up doing is relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms to push away the pain.
We want to invite you to a different grieving experience, one that you feel comfortable talking about your emotions, one where you feel loved and validated in your experience. Grief is not something to “get over.”
Did you know that 50% of individuals that are grieving experience suicidality, which is thoughts of harming themselves. If you or someone you know is having serious thoughts of harming themselves please call 9-1-1 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. We also can link you or a family member with a local counselor or therapist that can help.
Grief can start early, often when you find out your loved one was sick. You likely watched your loved one grieve in their own way as they neared the end. Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote a book, “On Death and Dying” where she identified 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Grief is a natural reaction to loss, our hearts and minds instinctively know what to do, however our culture has encouraged us to push through grief and hide what we are really feeling. One of the bravest things that we can do during the early stages of grief is allow ourselves to cry. When we cry, our bodies release chemicals that can give us a calming effect. So, next time you get the urge, let those tears flow. You will actually feel better afterward, your body has released what it needed to. It is absolutely normal to cry when you are grieving. We, in fact, encourage it.
How have you seen these stages of grief show up for you?
We would love for you to share your experience with us in the comments below.
If you are interested in a more in depth bereavement experience, please join our Virtual Grief Support Facebook page by clicking the link below. We also offer weekly in-house support groups and would love to spend time with you.
-The Retreat Bereavement team