Grieving the loss of a loved one is an inevitable human experience. As caregivers, whether or not the person who passed away was family, we can be hit hard. Caregiving itself is an emotional experience; watching a person progress through their age or illness(es) is taxing, and even though the end of the road may bring peace, grief is a completely natural stage in life.
Although mourning is different for everybody and every situation is unique, it is important to understand the common processes — especially when it comes to recognizing if you need to seek help.
Stages of Grief
Denial: After you first learn of a loss, it is typical to deny the event. You may feel so shocked at the news that your emotional state is numb. You may tell yourself and believe that it is not true. This is a common defence mechanism for coping with the onslaught of thoughts and emotions.
Anger: As the news sets in, the pain of loss may lead to feelings of frustration and anger. You may blame others, yourself, the loved one who died, or God. This is a natural way to release pain.
Bargaining: In this stage, you overanalyze the past and what you could have done, if anything, to prevent the loss. You may dwell for some time on these thoughts.
Depression: A deep sadness may be felt as you experience the repercussions of loss and its effect on your day-to-day. Crying, oversleeping, insomnia, and appetite changes may occur. Once again, it is normal to feel deeply in mourning a loss, but beware of prolonged stages of depression as it can be dangerous.
Acceptance: The final stage of grief is accepting the reality of a loss. You may still feel low for some time, but you recognize that it cannot be changed and you begin to move forward.
What can I do to ease the pain?
- Be patient with yourself. Take the time to feel all the emotions without trying to repress them. Be caring, loving, and forgiving to yourself.
- Surround yourself with friends and family, and do not be afraid to ask them for help. It is crucial not to isolate yourself completely during the grieving process.
- Manage your health. Exercising, eating well, and getting the right amount of sleep contributes to your physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Join a support group. You will gain insight from others who are also grieving, helping you to stay grounded and connected to the world.
How long is normal to mourn?
There is no “normal” amount of time to mourn a loved one. You may mourn for months, years, or even decades. Once again, the process is unique to the individual, so do not try to frame your mourning based on others.
Grieving may also come in waves; it is not unheard of to feel fine one moment and back in a low state the next. The feeling may move through the body and manifest in many different ways. However, pay close attention to its impact on your life and routines; prolonged, deep mourning may be a sign of serious depression.
Do I need professional help?
A healthy mindset and strong support system is essential to coping. But, in some cases, grief still does not get better and you may have trouble accepting the loss. It is important to consult your doctor, especially if you experience any of the following:
- Difficulty with daily tasks, such as cleaning, getting dressed, eating, and going to work
- Thoughts of suicide or harming yourself
- Consistent self-blame
- Any other symptoms of depression
Your doctor may prescribe medicines, recommend therapy, or provide you with options you may not have considered before. Speaking with professionals who have experience treating deep emotional pain and its repercussions may be necessary to heal.