Dealing with Grief
A loss can be many things, such as loss of ideals, job, house or status. A loss of a being and the resulting grief has to be one of life’s hardest experiences however, that every human without exception sooner or later must undergo. The bereavement period and the steps of grief leading towards recovery may vary for each individual. In this information age there are ample resources that are readily available to all, particularly those that have, albeit temporarily, lost their bearing and are in need of some healing compass. It may be that they are an introvert or a loner who do not wish to share this hard experience with anyone. What needs to be done then?
It’s fair to say that this angst, the depth of sorrow and the length of its endurance is far too complex an emotional journey for it be pigeonholed or categorized. However here are some tell-tale signs of grief. When identified it may help one towards resolution, acceptance then desired inner peace:
It may be that the aggrieved would feel shocked, feel fear. This type of loss can often trigger fears of one’s own mortality, of facing life without that person and the added responsibilities that need handling all by one self. With this feeling of anxiety and fear one could have difficulty in concentrating or one could feel numb, lack energy and motivation or have a hard time feeling any emotions at all.
Some may feel like they are “going crazy”. They therefore begin questioning religious beliefs, experience guilt or remorse (feeling guilty about things one did or didn’t say or do).
It’s normal to feel frustrated or misunderstood.
The feeling of sadness, that profound sadness, is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. Additionally one could experience wounding feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness.
Let us not discount the feeling of anger… Yes anger; even when the loss was nobody’s fault, one may feel angry with oneself, God, the doctors, or even at the deceased for abandoning them. The need to blame someone for the perceived injustice is very real.
Long after the loss, the mind may persist in being confused and muddled way past the initial stages. Or one may feel relief or peace after a loss. Yes, that too is a possibility.
Then the period where disbelief sets in or the time-frame in which the aggrieved can only focus on the manner of loss, focus incessantly on how other died, or the life that was spent together before the loss.
Even those that are blessed with many supportive family members and friends need to be patient in the face of the well- intentioned onslaught of advice or words such as, “Be strong!”, “It’s part of life”, “We all sooner or later undergo this,” or “Yours is not to question The Will of God!” or “Get on with your life!”, “Don’t waste what precious time you have left!” Patience and tolerance is to be exercised here even though all one needs is to be given time and the gentle nudge towards allowing one to have one’s grief to run its natural course.
The hardest to bear will be the milestones, specials markings of time, celebrations and so forth. Time is an effective healer however, the intensity of which, will gradually abate over time. Also, whilst lives are often transformed by grievous loss, it does not necessarily need to be for the worse. Focus instead on dealing effectively and positively with grief as it is essential to one’s recovery process and one’s ability to continue on with a fulfilling life in future.
Physical reactions such as upset stomach or intestinal disturbances like frequent diarrhea are to be expected. Responding to grief may manifest in the form of tightness in one’s throat, heaviness across one’s chest and sudden onset of breathing difficulties, or pain in heart region. Headaches and feeling of vacillating body temperatures, hot or sudden chill could also occur. One may undergo changes in one’s behavior, such as excessive need to sleep or lack of it and then there is that sudden wakefulness at odd hours. One may experience strange dreams or frightening nightmares. During the day one may be perpetually uneasy driving oneself to initiate one project after another or be cast into mere distractions just to avoid handling deep thoughts. Some may deal with it by sitting idly by and with a blank face staring into space and doing nothing for extended periods.
Usually grieving people opt to spend more time alone. They’re drawn to the quiet and in so doing seek safety in the experience. This could be their way of dodging other people and groups; for crowds and any size gatherings make them feel ill at ease. Some however are driven to crowds craving to be in midst of multitudes more than before. Once lost in a crowd however, an odd sensation of jealousy may materialize, being envious of people around who aren’t grieving. Then resentment may set in observing how callously others take so much for granted when nothing should ever be taken for granted. One may become even critical in ways that are uncharacteristic and mean spirited. Fortunately, this shift in character and outlook is usually temporary.
Let us not overlook those supernatural happenings that many may also experience. Such as going about usual routine only to have an auditory or visual experience of the dear departed close by. During meditation or in a dream sequence the departed may offer a special message. Rest assured, these phenomenons are far more common than one might think. Usually this is a person’s way of assimilating advice that the departed person would have given in life but now resides only in that person’s memory.
In summary, a healthy grief has many possible outlets. Some people are naturally more feeling-oriented as they grieve, while others are more cerebral. Some respond outwardly, while others keep it to themselves. Some want to have a close network of friends around them, and others prefer to be independent. Each individual’s experience is unique therefore one should not expect to have a “one-size-fits-all grief”. It’s common to feel listless and lifeless, discouraged and sometimes depressed long after this process of grief and many strong emotions can still resurface. But then after a while there comes a time when the pain ceases in intensity, gradual reawakening takes root and then eventually the lost energy is renewed and reinvigorated along with hope and the new transformed life.
It is said that through this process of grief, that one has traversed the difficult path to reach eventual healing.
Finally, here are some succinct points for overcoming grief:
-Connect with caring and supportive people.
-Offer support to other loved ones who are grieving also; this is sometimes the best way to overcome personal grief.
-Give yourself enough time. Everyone reacts differently to a loss.
– Allow yourself to feel sadness, anger, or whatever you need to feel. Find healthy ways to share your feelings and express yourself, such as talking with friends or writing in a journal.
-Recognize that your life has changed. You may feel less engaged with work or relationships for some time. This is a natural part of loss and grief.
-Holidays and other important days can be very hard. Consider new traditions or celebrations that support healing.
-Take care of your physical health.
-Be honest with young people about what has happened and about how you feel, and encourage them to share their feelings, too.
-Work through difficult feelings like bitterness and blame. These feelings can make it harder to move forward in your life.
-Make a new beginning. As the feelings of grief become less intense, return to interests and activities you may have dropped and think about trying something new.
-Think about waiting before making major life decisions. You may feel differently as your feelings of grief lose their intensity, and the changes may add to the stress you’re already experiencing.
A Letter to a Dying Man
Bassui wrote the following letter to one of his disciples who was about to die:
“The essence of your mind is not born, so it will never die. It is not an existence, which is perishable. It is not emptiness, which is a mere void. It has neither color nor form. It enjoys no pleasures and suffers no pains.
“I know you are very ill. Like a good Zen student, you are facing that sickness squarely. You may not know exactly who is suffering, but question yourself: What is the essence of this mind? Think only of this. You will need no more. Covet nothing. Your end which is endless is as a snowflake dissolving in the pure air.”
Nothing is for certain. Nothing lasts forever therefore one must make the most of what one has and truly appreciate life’s precious gifts.
What is life? What is its purpose? Answering these questions might motivate us to live a more meaningful existence and investigate the deeper truths of life.