Grief is a feeling. It is an emotional reaction to a thought or event. It is an instinct that is normal, natural and inevitable. Most people would prefer not to feel the sadness that is the result of a loss. They treat the emotion as a weakness or character flaw. They believe that they have to be strong and carry on as if nothing monumental has happened.
This is especially true when death is a release. The survivor may feel a sense of relief initially but is surprised when they find themselves mourning the loss. They did not expect to grieve. After all, the deceased seems better off now because the pain and suffering are over.
The truth is you will grieve. You will grieve for the deceased and all the sweet things in life that they will no longer experience and for the things that they didn’t get to do. You may feel sorry for them for many things and for the fact that they had to go before they wanted to go.
You will grieve not only for the deceased but for yourself as well. You will grieve for the loss of their companionship. Some of the symptoms of grief may surprise you. You may be caught off guard by the lack of concentration, the changes in eating, drinking or sexual habits and the fatigue. For a while your emotional responses may become muted or non-existent. You may experience physical symptoms or be irritable and anxious.
The best way to handle your grief is to recognize the symptoms and be gentle with yourself. Take time out from your usual routine. Don’t expect to carry on as if nothing has happened. Rest. See friends. Do things that you enjoy. Do all of the things that comfort you. Indulge yourself. Honor them. You will gradually come to accept the loss, tolerate it and incorporate it into your being. Your grief will pass but you may still miss them.
Patricia Frank is a Licensed Psychotherapist. She can be reached at 305-788-4864, 212-308-0309.