faced with a serious loss begins to grieve before the loss actually
occurs. The stages of grief and loss listed here are fluid and most
people do not begin with stage #1 and proceed in an orderly fashion
to the last stage. There is usually a great deal of movement among
and within the stages.
Stages of Grieving
The shock of death is to be expected even after months of anticipatory
grief. People often describe the first few weeks of grief as having
been lived on auto-pilot. There is very little actual memory of
specific details - merely the knowledge that one did what had to
be done. Shock usually wears off after 5 or 6 weeks, but may last
Release. It is not uncommon to see intense emotional release
at the time of death, and then have it seem to dry up for a number
of weeks. When shock finally dissipates, you may find strong emotions
such as anger, fear, remorse, and loneliness. You may be amazed
to discover the degree of dependence you felt for the one who died.
Depression takes the emotions mentioned above the intensifies them,
adding feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. You may complain
of not feeling your loved one close o you any more or of wanting
to be with him/her.
Symptoms of Distress. This is very common. You may feel
tightness in the throat or a heaviness in the chest. Loss of appetite
is common. You may even experience symptoms similar to those displayed
by your loved one.
Vivid dreams, waking and sleeping, in which you see and/or hear
your loved one, are common. Spiritual anxiety may be expressed as:
"How can he/she be at peace knowing I am suffering so?"
"Is he/she happy?" There may also be the fear that the
anger being felt toward God will bring about punishment in the form
of additional losses. Many experience deep anxiety over the possibility
of forgetting the loved one and no longer being able to recall how
the person smiled or how his/her voice sounded.
Anger is the emotion but hostility is the response. Anger usually
surfaces in the sixth to eighth week after the death. This rage
is sometimes random, sometimes specific. God, medical professionals,
clergy and the deceased are frequent targets. You may be confused
by the intensity of the anger.
Guilt is sometimes real, often imaginary or exaggerated. The "shoulds"
seem to rule the world. It is usually highly unlikely that any one
thing is critical. Doing the best you can with what you have at
the moment is a good guide.
There may be a fear of sleeping in the same bed or room, leaving
the house or staying in it, of bring alone or beginning new relationships.
There is the fear of never knowing joy again or not being able to
laugh without guilt.
of Memories. You may move back and forth between good memories
and bad. As the memories become less painful, there is an ability
to begin to face the world once more.
There is a difference between accepting the reality of the death,
thereby letting go, and forgetting the person who has died. As with
the healing of any serious wound, there will always be a scar to
remind one of the injury. With time will come a lessening of the
48 Hours: The shock of death can be intense and denial
is often strong in the first hours.
Week: The necessity of planning the funeral and making
other arrangements usually takes over and you may function in
an automatic manner. This may be followed by a feeling of let
down and emotional/physical exhaustion.
Weeks: There is a general feeling of abandonment as family
and friends return to their own lives after the funeral. Employers
often expect the bereaved to have recovered and to be fully functional
on the job. The insulation of shock may still be in effect and
there may be a sensation of ³Well, this isn¹t going
to be as bad as I first though.²
Weeks: It is during this time that the shock finally
wears off and the reality of the loss sets in. Emotions range
widely and you may feel lost and sometimes out of control.
Months: The cycle of good days and bad days begins. Irritability
may increase along with physical complaints.
Months: Depression may set in. Anniversaries, birthdays,
and holidays are especially challenging, and may trigger renewed
Months: The first anniversary can be traumatic OR the
beginning of resolution.
Months: The pain of separation becomes bearable. There
is an emotional letting go of the deceased and a recognition that,
while the person will never be forgotten, the pain of his/her
death will no longer need to be the focal point of life.
- Take care
of your physical needs.
Eat a balanced diet and drink 8 glasses of liquid/day;
Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Get some
form of exercise daily.
- Rest (maintain
rest patterns even if unable to sleep)
- Read books,
articles, poems to help in understanding and finding comfort.
- Avoid making
- Talk with
spouse, family and/or friends about feelings of loss.
- Accept help
from family, friends, clergy, support groups, etc.
- Seek professional
help if needed.