Do you feel like something is wrong with you because of the way the death of your loved one is affecting you? Are those around you implying that you have to “control yourself” or should you get over “it”?
Don’t let your feelings of isolation increase due to their lack of understanding. Almost everyone has a preconceived notion of what a normal human response to the death of a loved one is and is not. But the problem is (and it is your problem) only you know the degree of emotional investment you had in the loved one who died, not in your friends or family.
Grieve according to your schedule, not theirs. So what is normal that looks and feels so abnormal at times that can scare our support people? All of the following have been associated with the grieving process over the years.
1. Let’s start by understanding that grief is a long and complex journey with many ups and downs and unpredictable twists and turns. No two people grieve in the same way, not even in the same family. The process is much longer than our culture teaches. Most mourners are initially filled with shock and disbelief, even when they have known that their loved one was going to die. It cannot be imagined that the person is no longer physically present. You may feel numb, devoid of feeling. Normal.
2. May (or may not) be filled with anger and / or resentment. Anger is often directed at medical personnel, sometimes at other family members, God, friends who don’t show up, clergy, funeral directors, or the deceased, or for feeling abandoned. Don’t expect your support network, try as you might, to understand your pain or anger. You may even be angry with yourself for what you did or did not do, be it real or imagined. Normal.
3. It is not uncommon to have a variety of physical responses in addition to crying or yelling. Digestive disturbances, loss of appetite, headaches, fatigue, or the reappearance of previous aches and pains may be experienced. Nervousness or tremors, weight gain or loss have been reported. What we feel emotionally normally is transferred to all cells of the body. Usually it all culminates in the inability to sleep.
4. You may feel a sharp emptiness or irritability, a feeling of being overwhelmed, disoriented, or defenseless. Disorganized thoughts, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, or confusion may occur. Sometimes fear of the future, being alone or panicking is reported. Guilt, regret, or depression can appear as time passes and one plays a variety of scenarios that lead to death. Waves or waves of emotions are frequent.
5. Over time, when the reality of the loss subsides and the initial support begins to fade, the real work of grief begins. This is where you may feel extreme loneliness, isolation, longing, or difficulty establishing new routines required by the absence of your loved one. Feelings of rejection, despair, or hopelessness may appear. This is also the time when well-meaning people want you to get better quickly and you need to follow your own schedule for grief.
Life is often questioned. What meaning can it have now? You may not see any purpose for yourself in a world without your loved one, and the very idea of feeling happy again is insane at best. You continue to procrastinate, find it difficult to make decisions, lack concentration, and could be impatient with everyone. At this time it is essential to start working on establishing a new relationship with the deceased, learning to love in separation, starting the search for meaning and trying to reinvest in life.
To summarize, you will undoubtedly experience several of the responses prior to the death of a loved one. They have been experienced, in various ways, by millions of people before you. The general need is to allow the grieving process to unfold. Do your best not to resist. Let it develop naturally. No one can tell you how long it will take.
And you are not weak because you still cry and miss the deceased. It is common to cry at various times over the years when a poignant memory is triggered. That is healthy. Don’t suppress the normal expression of emotion during your grief. Death changes us. We have to establish a new personal identity, and as we gradually heal, we regain joy and enter the next chapter of life.
Each of us decides if and when we will be oriented to loss or restoration for the rest of our lives. Above all, remember that there is nothing wrong with having the feelings you have.