When we have emotional, physical, and spiritual reactions in response to a death or loss, it’s known as grief or grieving. People who are grieving can:
- feel strong emotions, such as sadness and anger
- have physical reactions, such as not sleeping or even waves of nausea
- have spiritual reactions to a death — for example, some people find themselves questioning their beliefs and feeling disappointed in their religion while others find that they feel more strongly than ever about their faith
The grieving process takes time and healing usually happens gradually. The intensity of grief may be related to how sudden or predictable the loss was and how you felt about the person who died.
Some people write about grief happening in stages, but I find it to be more like “waves” or cycles of grief that come and go depending on what I’m doing and if there have been triggers to memories.
If you’ve lost someone in your immediate family, such as a parent, brother, or sister, you may feel cheated out of time you wanted to have with that person. It can also feel hard to express your own grief when other family members are grieving, too.
Some people may hold back their own grief or avoid talking about the person who died because they worry that it may make a parent or another family member sad.
It’s also natural to feel some guilt over a past argument or a difficult relationship with the person who died.
We don’t always grieve over the death of a person. The death of a beloved pet can trigger strong feelings of grief. People may be surprised by how painful this loss can be. But the loving bonds we share with pets are real, and so are the feelings of loss and grief when they die.
All of these feelings and reactions are OK — but what can people do to get through them? How long does grief last? Will things ever get back to normal? And how will you go on without the person who has died?
Grief never really goes away, what it does is move to a smaller place in your life. We will always feel some grief when we lose our loved ones, but it’s really surprising how the grief becomes just another part of us.
I never thought that I’d recover from the death of my son. I never thought things would get back to normal. And of course things aren’t normal anymore! I have a sadness and a deep sense of loss that’s now just part of me. It’s not overwhelming any more, it doesn’t colour my world black as it once did. Every so often I experience a sharp pang when I see a small blond boy, or hear a particular melody that my son loved. I especially have trouble if PlaySchool comes on the ABC.
But these razor sharp strikes on my heart are controllable. I know they will pass. So too, all of us who suffer loss learn that the blackest moments will pass and the days without tears become more and frequent.