This is one of a series on grief. Be sure to check out the other posts: Grief thru a natural causes Anticipatory Grieving, Complex Grieving (suicide, accidents–grouped because they’re harder get through), Ambiguous Grieving a loss when they are still alive–cutting someone out, Secondary Grieving. The causes can be varied. In this series we explore the different types of grief to broaden your understanding, and offer practical help for coping with grief during dark days.
Losing someone you love is one of the most difficult experiences a person can go through. Grief can be a confusing and overwhelming emotion – the sorrow that accompanies the loss of a loved one due to natural causes. It can be challenging to know how to help yourself during this time. Understanding this aspect of grief is a crucial step toward healing and finding solace in the midst of pain.
Understanding Natural Grief
Natural grief is often associated with the loss of a loved one due to age-related factors, illness, or other non-traumatic events. While the cause of death may be expected or understandable, the emotional toll it takes on those left behind is profound.
The experience of losing someone to natural causes comes with its unique set of challenges. On one hand, there may be a sense of preparedness, especially if the person has been battling a long-term illness. On the other hand, the emotional impact can be just as intense, if not more so, due to the extended period of anticipation. Nevertheless, it may still come as a shock.
I was working as a hospital chaplain when I was called to the floor where a man had died. His son had just stepped out to get a cup of coffee when it happened. The son had wanted so much to BE there with his father, and was distressed that he wasn’t. He didn’t know that some dying people don’t want loved ones there–and some hold on just long enough to make the circumstances of their choosing.
Natural grief often involves a variety of emotions. There might be relief that a loved one is no longer in pain, combined with deep sadness and a profound sense of loss. Navigating these conflicting emotions can be overwhelming, and it's essential to recognize and accept them as part of the grieving process.
Some people feel guilt if they experience a feeling of relief that it’s finally over because the suffering was torture for them to watch. Some experience relief that the caregiving burden is over. They don’t understand that these feelings are natural.
Allowing Yourself to Grieve
One of the first steps is granting yourself permission to grieve. In a world that often imposes expectations and societal norms on the mourning process, it becomes crucial to recognize that grief doesn't adhere to a predetermined schedule. The timeline for healing is unique for each individual, shaped by the depth of the connection with the departed and the intricacies of personal emotions.
The societal inclination to assign a timeframe to mourning can unintentionally pressure individuals to conform to an unrealistic template for grief. This pressure might lead to a sense of inadequacy or guilt when the expected emotional recovery doesn't align with the prescribed period. The truth is, coping with grief is a profoundly personal journey, an unscripted narrative that unfolds at its own pace.
Allowing yourself the space and time needed to process is an act of self-compassion. It involves acknowledging the ebb and flow of sorrow, anger, confusion, and even moments of unexpected tranquility. Grief, in its raw authenticity, is not a linear process but a series of squiggles, each contributing to gradual healing.
During this unscripted journey, there may be days when the weight of grief feels particularly burdensome, demanding that you confront the depth of your emotions. Conversely, there may be moments of respite, where the pain momentarily subsides, allowing for glimpses of acceptance and peace. Granting yourself permission to experience this emotional spectrum is integral to the healing process.
Support for Coping with Grief
Grieving is not a solitary journey. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups who can offer understanding and compassion. Sharing your feelings with others can provide a sense of connection and alleviate the burden of grief.
Sometimes, the weight of grief may require professional assistance. Therapists and grief counselors specialize in providing the support needed to navigate complex emotions and find healthy coping mechanisms.
Celebrate the life of your loved one by honoring their memories. Create a memorial, share stories, or engage in activities that pay tribute to the person you've lost. Keeping their memory alive serves as a comforting and affirming part of the healing process. It is a gentle reminder that, while the physical presence may be absent, the essence of their being continues to resonate in the stories, the laughter, and the shared experiences.
In the aftermath of loss, there can be a tendency for people to hesitate, even unintentionally, to use the name of the deceased. It's as if the mere utterance of their name may intensify the pain. However, embracing truthful and open discussions about the person is an integral aspect of the healing journey. Acknowledging their presence in conversations, sharing memories, and referencing them by name contributes to a more authentic portrayal of grief. It's a recognition of the impact they had and the space they continue to hold in our hearts.
Journal–expressing your thoughts and emotions through writing can be a therapeutic way to process grief.
Mindfulness and Meditation–are powerful tools for managing grief. These techniques help anchor you in the present moment, offering a reprieve from the weight of sorrow.
Create Rituals–whether it's a daily walk, a weekly visit to a special place, or a monthly ritual to honor your loved one, these actions can become grounding elements in your life.
Remember Self-Care– drink water, get adequate sleep, maintain healthy nutrition, and get regular exercise. Taking care of your well-being is an essential aspect of the healing process. Grieving can be physically and emotionally draining.
Coping with Grief is a Journey
Coping with grief is a profound journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and the acknowledgment that healing is a gradual process. By understanding the complexities of grief after a natural loss, you can navigate the emotional landscape with greater resilience. Remember that seeking support, honoring memories, and allowing yourself the time to grieve are integral components of the healing journey. HOLD professional listeners are here to support you in your journey. In the subsequent posts of this series, we will explore other facets of grief, providing insights and practical help for those traversing the often-challenging path of sorrow.