When confronted with loss, many of us have trouble coping. This may be due in part to the fact that death remains a taboo topic in our society, and many people shy away from discussing it because the discomfort is too great. We also don’t receive any formal guidance for handling death the way we do for other life transitions, such as graduating from school, getting married, having children, and retiring from work.
If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, you’re not alone. It helps to think of grief as a journey, one that follows a familiar path and has been walked by many others before you. You will arrive at a place of acceptance and understanding but you have to keep going. There are also typical milestones you can expect to reach as you make your way through grief.
First, don't impose an arbitrary timeline on healing your grief. The timeline for grieving is different for everyone. For some it's a matter of weeks, others a matter of years.
At first, it’s common to go through a period of mourning that is characterized by feelings of shock, numbness, and disbelief. These are normal reactions and occur even when the death is an expected one.
Since a death unleashes major changes in our lives, it can trigger feelings of powerlessness that can be distressing. Different people cope with these feelings in different ways. Some retreat into isolation to sort through their feelings, while some have an increased need to be around others. Many people find great comfort in support groups that are specifically geared toward people dealing with grief.
In most cases, you feel a mix of emotions that can include anger, guilt, fear, loneliness, and sadness. You may also experience physical symptoms such as sleeplessness, body aches, mental fog, a feeling of heaviness or tightness in the body, and changes in appetite.
As your grieving process moves forward, these feelings can usher in a new stage of transformation in your life. Your view of life becomes deeper and more empathetic. You gain a level of wisdom that only the most difficult experiences can offer. You also become a resource to others who are on their own grief journeys.
Perhaps the most important lesson grief teaches us is that death is an inevitable part of life. Although it is difficult and painful, it is also the key to unlocking a new sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.
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