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Continued from... Grief & what may help

....that researchers have found are a universal state we all go through, more or less.

Most people are familiar with the 5 stages of grief but there are actually 5, 6 or 7 depending on who’s model you use. Kubler Ross first wrote on the 5 stages which are most widely known, and others have built on, David Kessler being one of the most known experts on grief today. But Kubler Ross also explains the stages in 7 sections, which are a more dissected, distinct explanation, and some say are more suited to the journey of complicated grief.

Whichever model you follow, the stages are not experienced in any particular order, are not necessarily experienced one at a time and so you can expect to be feeling a mixture of these stages, moving in and out, back and forth, with no particular pattern or triggers.

Your grief journey is as unique as you are as a person!

There is no right or wrong way to grief.

There is no yard stick!

Some say a time frame within which you may be finished grieving, but in my experience, those measuring tapes and trying to follow them, just add more stress. David Kessler once said, when asked how long grief is, “well how long will the person be dead?”

Let’s have a look at the common 5 stages;

Denial, numbness & shock: our first reaction to a death or loss is often numbness as we are in shock. This is a way for our body to protect us from the intense emotions associated with the situation. This numbness is not the same as not caring! As with crying, there is no rule and so never judge yourself or others if they don’t cry. The shock allows us to deal with the immediate ramifications of the situation, we move as if on autopilot and slowly we will come out of the fog.

Bargaining: this is the ‘what if’ stage. We go through all the possible eventualities that could have been done differently and hence may have brought a different outcome. Even though a lot of the time we know it wouldn’t have! Guilt is a big factor here. Guilt that you did or didn’t do something or say something, not even that it could have prevented death, but you now have lost the opportunity to ever say or do those things again.

Bargaining can be a particularly big stage in the case of a suicide. The questions that are left for you to figure out seem endless and there will never be answers. You may have to make a conscious effort to divert your attention away from the questions as you may find yourself in a spiral you cannot get out of.

Depression: here we feel the true extent of the death or loss. Common signs associated at this stage include trouble sleeping or nightmares, poor appetite, fatigue, lack of energy and focus, and crying spells. Self-pity, feeling plain lonely or isolated, empty, lost, and anxious, are all also part of this.

Anger: this is really common as most of us don’t like change and don’t like loss of power and control, and so we express anger at that alone. We can be angry at the person who passed, or at the hospital, your family or even God. Or at all of them!

Acceptance: as time moves on, we get used to the new way life is. We get used to the emotions we have, the sadness at random times or whatever it is for you… The gaps that there were in our day or week, where we would have spent time with that person, are filled with other stuff. Slowly a new life is formed.

There are some things you can do to help yourself along the path of this grieving journey. I have found that these tools are a practice you can turn to, something to do, to put your energy into. Some you may like the idea of, and some not, that’s ok. You are in charge, it’s very much about what you are drawn to and what feels right on any given day.

•Write a letter of love - write a letter as if you were talking to the person, connect to your loved one through the act of writing.

•Leave your anger on the paper – write a letter to the source of your anger; it could be to the person who has passed, to the illness that took them, to a situation, or otherwise. Be really honest and raw, allowing your anger to come up. Nobody will read it so be honest, be real. Then decide on a ritual to destroy the letter; you can burn it, bury it, send it down a river, rip it to pieces and let it blow away in the wind.

•Memory Box - Create a memory box into which you can collect and keep items that remind you of your loved one. This is especially good to do with children who are not yet able to verbalise fully how they feel. Gathering items and looking at them, talking about them and the memory attached to those items, is a way to connect with each other about your loss and helps heal those difficult emotions.

And just a little thought to leave you with;

“Don’t give death all your power, don’t let it end your relationship with your loved one” David Kessler.

Just because they are not in a physical form that you can experience them as you have known up to now, does not mean you have to end your relationship with them. Obviously, you can if that’s what you want, but if not, stay connecting to them on whatever level feels good to you.

Remember; there are no rules!

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