Grief is the normal process of dealing with a significant loss, such as losing your spouse. It can last for weeks, months or longer and is an individual experience that may vary from person to person. I think grief looks like I’m all over the place instead of on a straight line. The following are some general guidelines on how grief could possibly look…
Generally, the grief process begins with shock and numbness and then becomes increasingly more intense as you recognize what has happened. The emotions of sadness, fear, guilt and anger are common as you move through this phase. Some people become depressed, which can complicate the grieving process. The good news is that the bad days gradually become fewer and fewer, though your grief will always be a part of you.
The next stage is bargaining, when you try to convince yourself or others that you can “get past” the loss by doing something, such as taking a vacation or moving to a new home. Many people also find themselves wrestling with thoughts of self-destruction. If you do have thoughts of suicide please see a doctor immediately.
Finally, some people enter a period of acceptance that they cannot change what has happened and realize the true nature of death. This can be very difficult, and often takes time to reach, but it is a necessary step in the grief journey.
A final stage, which is sometimes called integrating or coming to terms, occurs when the memories of your loved one no longer preoccupy you and do not prevent you from participating in daily life. You may still be touched by memories from time to time, especially around special anniversaries or holidays.
The grieving process is complicated by the fact that you must cope with not only the death of your spouse, but other losses in your life as well. This can cause you to feel overwhelmed and confused, which will slow the progress of your grief.
How long the grieving process will take depends on a variety of factors, such as your other relationships, your job, your physical health and how well you have been coping with the pain of the loss. It can be very helpful to seek out support from friends and family, a therapist or grief group.
If you are caring for a friend or loved one who is grieving, remember that they may not know what to say to you. They may feel awkward, even uncomfortable saying the wrong thing. Be patient and let them know that you are there for them. It is important to listen and be present, and not judge them for their responses. Ultimately, the best gift you can give someone is simply your presence. You can make this a safe space for them to work through their difficult emotions. You might say something like, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you.” Remember that no one can tell you when it is time to “get over” the loss. You must go through it at your own pace. You will only be successful if you allow yourself to experience all of your feelings, including anger, guilt and relief.