I was given this yesterday. I really needed to read/hear this. I feel validated. I feel like I'm not crazy, but completely normal. I found this to be a big comfort. I put in bold the parts that resonated most, and wanted to pass this entire careletter/newsletter from Russon Brothers Morturary on to anyone and everyone who also needs it.
THE FIRST WEEK
From the moment we hear of a profound loss, we need to take ourselves out of circulation. There is no sense in making believe nothing has happened. Stop. Cancel the party, speaking engagement, or opening night. Yes. The show must not go on. There has been a a tear in the fabric of your life and it requires mending. No safety pins! For the first week following a loss, consider staying out of your ordinary reality. Cancel all obligations and go inside. Go inside yourself, inside your home, with trusted allies and friends be they in the form of people, books, tapes or nature. Go where you can hear wisdom voices speaking to you and not on the five o'clock news! The voices in your mind are beginning to form a place where you will hold this loss. Take the time to listen. Since each loss is unique, you can adjust how long and how deeply you want to disconnect from your ordinary reality, but there is a great wisdom in the face of a death in your inner circle to take a full week. Time does not heal, but healing takes time.
For seven days ask nothing of yourself. All professional and personal responsibilities are canceled. You are instead held, fed, and cared for by family and friends. The you that was in relationships to what feels lost has died. Do you have time to sit for a week with your own death?
THE FIRST MONTH
Returning to ordinary reality at the end of a week asks a great deal of us. It asks us to trust life enough to return to it. In the face of profound loss, we take baby steps back into life. What kinds of places call to you? Listen to your inner promptings. Who are the people to whom you feel drawn? Who repels you? Listen. Few of us can afford to climb into bed and pull the covers up. Most of us need to engage responsibilities around work and families. This is a safety net so that we don't withdraw totally. On the other hand, getting back to normal is not possible in the face of having to redefine normal. Take the time.
THE FIRST YEAR
There is no closure or completion in the face of loss. This is a fallacy too many of us hear and then wonder, "what is wrong with me? Why don't I feel closure?" There is no completion, but there is integration. As we move through the cycles of time that circumscribe our lives - the day, the week, the month and the year - our losses are woven into the fabric of our being.
"WE NEED TO GIVE OURSELVES 365 MORNINGS"
The first year asks us to be gentle with ourselves. To remember that our core has been dismembered, torn apart, by loss. Healing takes time and healing is an active process! We must step up to our grief, meet it, embrace it, and invite it into our lives. Once we do that, grief begins to teach us. The first year is a year of firsts! We need to give ourselves 365 mornings where we awaken into the self that contains our loss. Don't short-change yourself one day. It's time to heal.
HOW LONG WILL THIS GO ON?
The journey through grief is a highly individual experience. Rather than focus on a timeline, it is perhaps more helpful to focus on it's intensity and duration. Initially grief is overwhelming and people can feel out of control. With time, people find they have more ability to choose when they access memories and emotions. The intensity of grief is related to the degree of attachment to the person, the type of relationship and other factors such as understanding and social support, personality, and specific details of the bereavement.
AM I GOING MAD?
It will certainly feel like it at times! Particularly if the individual's need to grieve is out of step with social and cultural expectations. Grief affects people physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. People may be required to make adjustments to their lives by learning new skills, at a time when they feel least able to do so. Validation and permission to grieve are powerful comfort to a bereaved person's experience.
IS THERE A RIGHT WAY AND A WRONG WAY OF COPING WITH GRIEF?
People are individuals with personalities and life experiences, which influence the way in which they deal with grief. People's style of grieving must be respected, and in this sense, there is no right or wrong way of coping. However, it is generally believed that the amount of support people receive can ameliorate some of the impact of grief and facilitate recovery. People often have an awareness about what they need to do to feel better, but feel inhibited or judged and don't act on their inclinations. Talking about what is happening, what they are going through, expressing emotion and existing in a supportive and accepting climate is generally helpful. Cultural factors may impact on a person's feelings of a "right" or "wrong way."
STAGES OF GRIEF
Grief does not follow a linear pattern. It is more like a roller caster, two steps forward and one step back. Ultimately, people manage to integrate the experience to the point of having a new life arising from the old. The loss remains and is always remembered, but the intensity is no longer disabling or disorganizing.
Much of grieving is about expressing emotion - some may be unfamiliar and unacceptable to self or others (e.g., rage, guilt, remorse). Finding a safe place and an accepting person for support to work through all the effects of bereavement is important. The amount of support available from family and friends may be limited if they, too, are grieving. Misunderstandings can arise when people are at different points within the grief experience. External supports may then become a vital factor in surviving and continuing on. It is important to know that you can survive the experience and that the new life that eventually comes about may have very positive effects despite the difficulty of arriving at this point.
SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS DIED
You are now faced with the difficult, but important, need to mourn. Mourning is the open expression of your thoughts and feelings regarding the death and the person who has died. It is an essential part of healing. You are beginning a journey that is often frightening, painful, overwhelming, and sometimes lonely. This article provides practical suggestions to help you move toward healing in your personal grief experience.
REALIZE YOUR GRIEF IS UNIQUE
Your grief is unique. No one will grieve in exactly the same way. Your experience will be influenced by a variety of factors: the relationship you had with the person who died, the circumstances surrounding the death, your emotional support system, and your cultural and religious background.
As a result of these factors, you will grieve in your own special way. Don't try to compare your experience with that of other people or to adopt assumptions about just how long your grief should last. Consider taking a "one-day-at-a-time" approach that allows you to grieve at your own pace.
TALK ABOUT YOUR GRIEF
Express your grief openly. By sharing your grief outside yourself, healing occurs. Ignoring your grief won't make it go away; talking about it often makes you feel better. Allow yourself to speak from your heart, not just your head. Doing so doesn't mean you are losing control or going "crazy". It is a normal part of your grief journey.
Find caring friends and relatives who will listen without judging. Seek out those persons who will walk with, not in front of or behind you, in your journey through grief. Avoid persons who are critical or who try to steal your grief from you. They may tell you, "keep your chin up", or "carry on", or "be happy." While these comments may be well-inteded, you do not have to accept them. You have a right to express your grief; no one has the right to take it away.
EXPECT TO FEEL A MULTITUDE OF EMOTIONS
Experiencing loss affects your head, heart and spirit. So, you may experience a variety of emotions as part of your grief work. Confusion, disorganization, fear, guilt, relief, or explosive emotions are just a few of the emotions you may feel. Sometimes these emotions will follow each other within a short period of time. Or they may occur simultaneously.
As strange as some of these emotions may seem, they are normal and healthy. Allow yourself to learn from these feelings. And don't be surprised if out of nowhere you suddenly experience surges of grief, even at the most unexpected times. These grief attacks can be frightening and leave you feeling overwhelmed. They are, however, a natural response to the death of someone loved. Find someone who understands your feelings and will allow you to talk about them.
ALLOW FOR NUMBNESS
Feeling dazed or numb when someone dies is often part of your early grief experience. This numbness serves a valuable purpose: it gives your emotions time to catch up with what your mind has told you. This feeling helps create insulation from the reality of the death until you are more able to tolerate what you don't want to believe.
BE TOLERANT OF YOUR PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL LIMITS
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you fatigued. Your ability to think clearly and make decisions may be impaired. And your low-energy level may naturally slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Nurture yourself. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. Lighten your schedule as much as possible. Caring for yourself doesn't mean feeling sorry for yourself; it means you are using survival skills.
DEVELOP A SUPPORT SYSTEM
Reaching out to others and accepting support is often difficult, particularly when you hurt so much. But the most compassionate self-action you can do at this difficult time is to find a support system of caring friends and relatives who will provide the understanding you need. Find those people who encourage you to be yourself and acknowledge your feelings - both happy and sad.
MAKE USE OF RITUAL
The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. Most importantly, the funeral is a way for you to express your grief outside yourself. If you eliminate this ritual, you often set yourself up to repress your feelings, and you cheat everyone who cares of a chance to pay tribute to someone who was, and always will be, loved.
ALLOW A SEARCH FOR MEANING
You may find yourself asking, "Why did he die? Why this way? Why now?" This search for meaning is often another normal part of the healing process. Some questions have answers. Some do not. Actually, the healing occurs in the opportunity to pose the questions, not necessarily in answering them. Find a supportive friend who will listen responsively as you search for meaning.
Article condensed from original. Reprinted with permission of Center for Loss & Life Transitions. Article written by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph. D. For much more on this subject, go to: www.centerforloss.com
Tweet me: @DeenaMarie