Hurt, Hope, Healing - Health
The world a
u once knew it has changed. Never to be had again. Although it may not seem like it right now, it is
possible to hav
e a sense of peacefulness, meaning, and yes- even joy, in your life again.
No two people are
, nor are the ages, type of death or the relationship you had with the person who has died. The ways people grieve will be as different as their own personalities are. However, most people are similar in that they face emotional, physical, practical, spiritual and psychological challenges while creating their new life without the person who has died.
Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Grief is long, hard work. Knowledge of what you will experience 'along the way’ offers hope that you can become healthy and whole again.
It used to be said that there were 'stages’ of grief to go through. Since then grief has been described as many things: a roller coaster, cycles, tasks, phases, and a journey. In explanation of this format, grief has been divided into four areas: the Hurt, the Hope, the Healing and Towards Health.
“I felt as if I was watching myself in a bad dream. I wanted to wake up and discover that it was all over. Life will never feel normal again.”
Hurt is defined as harm, wound, injury, damage, and ache. It can be both physical and emotional. When a significant person in your life dies, you hurt. It’s that plain and simple.
At first, you seem to be in shock, and are numb with disbelief. When your body receives a physical injury that is too much to bear, your body goes into shock. Similarly, when your heart has been wounded, you go into emotional shock. Practical tasks such as funeral arrangements, thank-you notes, and legal forms are often done in a haze.
You may find yourself telling the story of the death over and over. Doing this helps you to understand that the death has actually occurred, and that the loss is real. After a few months, it might seem as if friends and family expect you to be your 'old self’ again. You may take this as meaning that they are tired of listening to you. Right as you begin the hardest part of your grief journey, people expect you to be 'over it.’ It is normal to feel worse, instead of better
as you begin
o realize that the person is not coming back.
The indescribable depth of 'raw pain’ during early grief brings out very intense emotions such as: fear, anger, guilt, anxiety, poor self-esteem, sadness, or even relief, to name a few. Most people feel as if they are going crazy. It is a difficult time to be in control of your emotions. Out of the blue, you may hear a song, or see a coffee cup that reminds you of the person, and you begin to cry or find yourself becoming angry. This is a normal part of grief.
Men and women often express grief in different ways. As well, family and friends can be grieving the same loss, but from a different perspective. Giving respect to each other is necessary.
Grief expresses itself in many different ways, such as:
Physical symptoms such as: headaches, exhaustion, stomach problems, breathlessness, dry mouth, tightness in chest, skin problems, 'mimic’ symptoms of the cause of death of loved one, over-sensitivity to stimuli and noise.
Cognitive indicators can be: disbelief, confusion, disorganization, lack of concentration, memory loss, lack of initiative, time spans being out of whack, or minor hallucinations.
Behavioural alterations can include: change in eating habits, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, dreams of the deceased, sighing, restlessness, over activity, visiting or avoiding places and carrying objects or wearing clothes of the deceased.
Spiritual concerns include: rejection of- or increase in faith, anger towards God, disappointment with a religious network, questioning of an afterlife, and abandonment of hope, yearning, searching, and a lack of meaning in everyday life.
During these months, you may find yourself having thoughts like these:
Why me? Life isn’t fair.
How can I go on?
Should I go back to work?
When do I give away the clothes?
Should I sell the house?
Why did God let this happen? I want to blame someone for my pain.
I’ve never been so sick.
I am so worried about my financial situation now.
Where are my friends and family when I need them?
The day is so long.
If I’d only known“¦I wish“¦
I cry at the most ridiculous things.
I keep setting her place at the table.
I am tired all of the time.
I thought I heard his truck pull in the driveway.
I can’t go to the park we used to enjoy.
When I hurt unbearably, I feel as if he/she is watching over me.
I feel as if a part of me has died too.
“I don’t cry as often. The other day I actually found myself laughing. It sounded funny to my own ears. Maybe I do have the courage to get through this. Other people have.”
Hope is defined as optimism, expectation, longing, confidence and trust. A feeling that what is wanted will happen.
During the grief journey you will reach a turning point where you begin to concentrate less on the 'yesterdays’ of your life, and begin to live your 'today,’ with a positive anticipation of your 'tomorrow.’ You understand that the person is not coming back, that life as you once knew it is over, but that your life is not over. You understand that as
you continue to grieve, although happiness may still seem a long time away, you begin to seek a sense of peacefulness in your life. You understand that the person is gone physically, but will always be alive in your heart. This sense of hope allows you to reach and work towards your future. (Yes, it is hard work. Time, on its own, does not heal. Your decisions have to be very intentional about heading towards a healthy lifestyle.)
“There is nothing that I wouldn’t give to have him back, but I have certainly learned the value of both new and old friends. I feel different than I used to be. I feel stronger.”
Healing is defined as recuperating, convalescing, recovering, and getting better. It is to make or become well or healthy again, to cure or to mend, as a wound.
Similar to healing from a physical injury, there are many tasks and phases of learning to live with
loss. You understand that there will always be 'unfinished business’ but it no longer consumes you. As you establish a new identity and lifestyle you will be challenged with decision making, and difficult periods. Grief often feels like two steps forward, and one step back. Please understand that this is normal, and not a set-back.
Not all relationships are good ones. It surprises many people to know that it can be more challenging to grieve someone who you had mixed feelings about. Yet, it is possible to still learn from what you have experienced and reach a positive and peaceful outcome.
Sometimes the only insight that you may gain from this person’s life, is that you never want to live the way that they did.
While you are grieving this death, you may discover unresolved emotions from a previous loss. Even losses that aren’t caused by a death will resurface. It really is a time of trying to 'figure it all’ out, and make some meaning of your entire life. If there are ongoing issues such as illness, financial challenges, or relationship conflicts, these will all add to the depth of your grief.
The healing phase of grief is a 'soul-searching’ time. As your routines, skills responsibilities and roles change, you learn about what it truly important to you in life. Although at times it is still overwhelming and confusing, you begin to gain confidence in your abilities. Not only are you are creating a new life for yourself, but you begin to enjoy parts of it.
Recognition of Special Days
Personal anniversaries (birthday’s wedding anniversaries, school graduations, diagnostic dates, etc.) and public holidays present additional challenges. The reactions to these times may begin months, days or weeks before the actual date. Although the first year seems to be the most challenging, subsequent years can sometimes be even more painful. Even individuals who have been doing very well toward the end of the first year may be surprised at how intensely the one year anniversary affects them.
“I will keep her in my heart forever, but I have learned how to live without her in my daily life. My memories are good ones now, not sad ones. I am so grateful that I got to have her in my life.”
Health is defined as a sense of well-being, fitness, strength and vigor.
Most people agree that it takes at least two years to start feeling like they have established a meaningful life again.
Ways to Ease your Journey to Health & Wholeness
Take good physical care of yourself.
Try to maintain good sleeping, eating & exercising habits. Say 'no’ to others when you need to. Express your needs to others. Attend a support group. Explore your faith. Take time for yourself. Talk to friends. Let them know how you feel. Seek professional advice-especially if depression, suicidal thoughts or poor coping skills are present. Cry, read, listen to music, journal, pray, jog, run, garden. Acknowledge the tough days. Talk about the deceased. Honour the person- volunteer or donate to their favourite cause. Celebrate their life. Realize that some things have no explanations. Remember the good things that are still in your life. Set personal goals. Make positive plans for your future. Death changes your world forever. Through the long process, and hard work of grief, it is possible to have joy again.
“I have touched your life and you have touched mine, and for that we shall be forever grateful.” Margot Burke