Grieving is a normal part of living

Grief is a normal response to loss; however, you may not feel “normal” when you are grieving.

While symptoms vary from person to person, it is common to feel sad, angry, lost or “in a fog.” Physical aches and pains or a racing mind my lead to sleepless nights or you may find all you want to do is sleep. Eating habits may change. Relationships with family, friends and coworkers may become strained despite everyone’s best efforts.

How long will this last? Grief is not a process that you can move through quickly. There is no normal cycle of grieving. The experience is as unique as the individual and his or her loss. Grief is also reoccurring and may be triggered years after the loss by a song, a scent, or a memory. Like the labor of childbirth, even though grief is normal and natural, it is still painful yet there is joy waiting beyond it.

Culturally we have done ourselves a disservice. A three-day bereavement period is not sufficient. Expecting to return to our normal productive lifestyles just days after a significant loss is unrealistic. We must give ourselves and each other grace and expect some setbacks.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make in the grieving process is to suppress and ignore our feelings. We try to stay busy. Try not to think about the loss or the pain. No one wants to be forgotten and no one wants to forget a loved one. What we really need is freedom to remember and healthy ways to direct the powerful emotions associated with those memories.

Even the most introverted people will need a friend during a time of= grief, someone to listen and to care. Grief support groups or individual bereavement counseling may be helpful as it connects you with others experiencing loss. This can help you feel less alone.

Putting your feelings into words and sharing your pain with others can be powerfully healing. If the idea of talking about your feelings is uncomfortable, start with journaling. Just getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper is a healthy way to start the healing process. Write about how you feel. Write about what you remember that you never want to forget.

Physical activity is helpful too. The negative energy needs to go somewhere. Exercise is good, but even simple\ activities like drawing, painting, playing an instrument, or gardening will allow you the opportunity to move your hands while you focus your thoughts.

You don’t need to be an artist or a musician, just doing something meaningful is therapeutic. Plant a memorial garden or a special plant in memory of your loved one. Physical touch is helpful too. Pet an animal or get a massage.

Allow yourself to feel something pleasant. This is part of healing and part of living. And living fully is exactly what your loved one wants you to do.

Angelia Neumann is director of development and communications at Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice and member of HSC2020 Mental Health Committee