Grief is an emotional response which happens not just when someone dies, but also when friends move away or stop being friends, in divorce, separation, with lost expectations, children leaving home, aging, lost dreams, lost pets, national tragedies.
Common myths include:
1) Bad things happen to other people.
2) I can handle this on my own.
3) I don’t need to talk about it.
4) No one can tell how really upset I am.
5) My pain, anger, and fear will just go away on their own.
6) If I don’t think about it, nothing happened or will happen.
Basic principles to remember about grieving include:
1) You can’t fix grief – grief work takes time.
2) Everyone grieves differently – some express it openly, others privately.
3) There is no set timetable for grief.
4) Every loss is a multiple loss – our losses accumulate and are felt again with each new loss.
According to Dr. John Bowlby, there are 4 phases of loss and mourning:
1) Numbing – may last a few hours to several weeks and and be interrupted by intense distress or anger.
2) Protest – protest efforts to recover what was lost; searching, yearning, anxious behavior.
3) Despair – disorganization sets in as hope of recovery fades, muted longing, apathy, generalized hostility, and withdrawal – mourning behaviors.
4) Reorganization – detachment from what was lost; seeking new relationship; engaging defenses, skills, resources to adjust to loss. This last step occurs with support and the opportunity to mourn the loss.
It is also necessary to address the four grieving – healing tasks, thereby allowing people to access their skills and inner strengths to adapt and heal.
The “Four Tasks of Healing” were developed by Harvard psychologist, William Worden. To heal we need to address and substantially accomplish each of these tasks, but not necessarily in this order. We can and do go through these tasks backwards and forwards and may work on more than one at a time.
1) Accept the reality of the loss – “it really happened”; we talk about the loss and integrate the information both in our minds and emotions.
2) Experience the pain of grief – feelings must be experienced internally or externally i.e., pain, rage, fear, guilt.
3) Adjust to life without the lost object or condition.
4) Form a new attachment, spiritual bond.
The following are what we can expect from a grieving person:
5) physical aches and pains
6) “what’s the use?”
7) yearning, sighing (for the way we were)
8) return of old grief – “this reminds me of when…”
What can we do for others who are grieving?
1) Show care -listen, be there, keep commitments.
2) Show acceptance – be OK with their tears, anger, fears, guilt, shame; let them know they are still OK, still respected; avoid judgement; be careful about “why” and “should.”
3) Assist them – food, money, babysitting, transportation, shopping, laundry; help them maintain routines in the household.
4) Listen and reflect feelings.
Specific things we can do to help ourselves and others in the current crisis:
1) Pray and worship.
2) Talk to someone, express and allow expression of feelings.
3) Donate blood -now and in the future.
4) Write letters/cards to the rescuers, survivors, families of victims.
4) Show love and kindness to our families, school friends, coworkers and neighbors now – life is precious.