August 7, 2011

The Journey Through Grief

“The answer is the sojourn; the question and endless flight”

When a person realizes they have lost something they begin a journey. It is personal and unique yet somewhat predictable. This is wonderful news because when we realize we are not going to be able to find that which we have lost we will need support, wisdom and the strength of someone who has traveled the distance we must now go.

Most commonly the first reaction is shock. We are overwhelmed with the information which most commonly causes our brain to simply reject the news. We deny it because we cannot comprehend the facts. We ask for proof believing that surely a mistake has been made; some even get offended trying to dig up a more accessible emotion to deal with. It is not uncommon for hours or days to pass before these individuals might have any strong emotional reaction to the loss. Not believing it is real acts as a temporary shield between them and reality to buffer and afford space to cope. We must allow each person their own process and not demand they handle it as we or others do.

Some people need a time out before they deal with the pain; shock affords them this. Denial works the same way on an emotional level, the individuals dealing with loss in this way pick up the pieces of reality which they can process. This allows them to select the morsel to chew on and digest the facts as they can cope. If we press them to “face facts” we may actually cause undue trauma by not respecting their capacity to appropriately place the real facts as it pertains to “them”.  Denial, realistically, might last a few minutes or a few days. It is common for these individuals to speak of the facts but still not connect with them, meaning they are stepping forward yet still denying it on some levels. They are simply taking baby steps; we should extend the mercy given to us realizing God’s mercy and grace will greet them each morning. However, if after a few weeks they are still in denial it would be wise to encourage them to seek professional companionship to guide them on this part of their journey.

With shock there can be physical signs of distress such as pacing frantically, inability to sit in one place or remain seated, heavy breathing, deep sighs, wringing of hands or even sudden shaking of their heads. These are normal and healthy reactions when people feel threatened which causes a rush of adrenaline. Their physical business helps use up that energy as well as providing an anesthetic against those overwhelming feelings they are not ready to cope with yet.

Another common path of grief is to recoil. This usually happens when the shock and denial begins to open up as they enter into the reality of the road they are traveling. I usually tell people it is okay if you take a couple of steps out the door and run back or stop to utilize some emotions that “feel” better. What people usually tell me is that this is when they fell like their equilibrium is out of sorts. They can move rapidly between obsessive thoughts about their loved one, intense feelings of sadness, anger, guilt and loneliness as if they are on a boat being hit by waves of each. At times they will have an outburst of tears and seconds later they will be absolutely fine, then so angry to the point of tears again, which move them to feel guilt. It can be extremely confusing and scary for the individual especially if they have never experienced the loss of a loved one before. They may not desire to speak about it in fear that there is something mentally wrong with them. We need to encourage them that this process needs to be at their pace on their terms and it is okay. Also realize they might not be able to concentrate, they may panic when normally they would be steady. This is all perfectly normal and nothing to be alarmed about.

We do not want a hurting individual to seclude themselves during this journey. When this happens unexpressed emotions can cause headaches, backaches, stomach issues, depression and relationship damage so it is best to forge onward till the journeys end.

Some people try to take this journey as a road race. I would not advise that, take the time to reflect on the good times with your loved one. Sit with those memories, gather with others who loved them, laugh, remember, linger and embrace each other. Remember, there will be good day, better days and worse days. However the ratio should be moving toward more good days than bad, more laughs about silly things than tears and even days that you do not think about them at all. It’s okay, they would want you to go back to living, hoping and embracing others while they are preparing your eternal home.

If you would like more information on The Journey of Grief please contact a member of Kaleidoscope Butterfly, Inc. we want to reach through your chaos and see true beauty emerge.

Candace Huffmaster

Kaleidoscope Butterfly, Inc ®
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