Grief… or a better word for it Bereavement. Bereavement and grief is a totally personal yet totally different journey to each and everyone of us. It’s a sad fact that we are born to die at some point in time. When that time is no one can know, predict or even foresee. I touched base with apart of my journey with grief back in July 2017 with my first post on this, then, my new blog. Which you can re-read here. Eight months later on my journey through life I have felt the need to address my grief again which is why I am here to talk about how I feel and my progress with coming to terms with things in life and why I feel the way I do.
What Is Grief?
Grief is an adaptable response to loss, more so the loss of someone or something that has died, to which you have a direct bond with or over a period of time affection had been formed. It is more commonly focused on the emotional response to loss but isn’t limited to just emotions, it can also present in physical, behavioral, social, spiritual, cognitive and philosophical dimensions. Whilst some call it Grief, other’s refer to it as a Bereavement. There is however a difference, whilst Grief is used to describe the reaction to that loss, Bereavement refers to the state of loss. It’s hard to difference between the two as they do over-lap on many occasions.
Grief, I have been told is a natural reaction and response to loss. It is the emotional suffering that you feel when something or someone that you love is taken away, most commonly by death. There are however, many causes of grief from the variety of losses you experience through-out you lives journey from, loosing your job and being unemployed, ill or poor health to the end of relationships. Loss can be seen as a category in either Physical Loss or Abstract Loss. Physical Loss being something that you can touch or measure, such as loosing a parent through death. Whilst other losses are abstract and relate to aspects of your social interactions.
The type of Grief my journey falls into is the physical loss of my biological father and also my step father, however I have even come to realize so many months after when my brain is starting to process things that this also affects the abstract areas of my life. I always presumed that my grief was just my feelings to how I felt at loosing those predominant people in my life, but over time I have come to see that it’s not just my feelings but the difference it has made to my life in the way I behave and my attitude to others. The way I am in social situations and how little time I no have for little irrelevant things in life. My beliefs in life have changed very drastically, I had very little faith in any religious being and since this happened to me I have no belief what-so-ever. My cognitive behavior has changed too. When I sit and look at my life and the way I process things now and how I go about my daily life I have changed mentally without really realizing it.
Everyone’s grieving process is different. FULL STOP! No-one can tell you there is a right way to grieve and a wrong way. It is a personal journey that is very different to everyone. There are only similarities to what happens. I’m sure if you’ve lost someone in life you hear the “I know how you feel” saying. Thing is how many of us really know how someone feels? If your reading this and you haven’t lost your father how would you begin to know how I feel? you can sympathize with me and relate to other loss that you have suffered in your life, but the knowing how I feel without my father in my life could you say you knew how I felt? The answer is a simple No. I know that when someone dies and you naturally want to provide comfort to others it is a very thin line in what to say and how to be, the one thing I can say is… Be yourself. There are no right things and wrong things to say, being there for someone doesn’t necessarily mean you know all the answers and will talk to someone till the cows come home, the physical presence of you being there can sometimes just be enough. No-one will hold it against you for not speaking, not knowing the answers or the right things to say. This brings me to say that everyone reacts differently. Some people can shut away from the world, some people turn to alcoholism and drugs, some people cry then appear to move on. It’s all a journey and everyone takes a different path to move on.
My loss with my Biological father is very different to the loss I suffered with my step father due to the relationships I had with two very different people. My process of grief I am still trying to figure out nearly four years on, it’s something that happens over time. There’s that word again TIME. Time is a funny thing! Time heals some people say, no… infact it is simply the long-term effects of bereavement has which you see in how a person is adapting to the loss of a significant person in their life over a matter of time. I guess you could say it’s not “moving on”, but simply learning to live and adapt to life without that person in your life.
You may of heard of the Five Stages Of Grief which researcher Elizabeth Kuhbler-Ross conducted in the late 60’s. For those who haven’t it’s since been adapted to include the process of grief, although myself and others consider it to be a bit out-dated. I do however think these stages can help with the whole “Making sense” of the grieving process.
It is important to remember that as you go through these stages that they do not necessarily run in succession of one another and that they can indeed be frequently revisited again and again before finally accepting our loss. Like I have said previously there is NO right way or wrong way to the grieving process.
I think it is helpful to look at the stages as a kind of guide to maybe compare your own situation to, which in kind may offer some clarity or understanding during our own individual process when nothing else in our worlds makes sense. Questioning everything we know and do or what we thought we knew is completely normal.
The five stages of grief.
This stage presents itself as us not being able to process what is happening. Feelings of utter disbelief and serious ruminating thoughts. Feelings of shock we are engulfed in, the one’s where it feels like you cannot breathe, you cannot cope with everything that is happening.
We struggle to make sense of the world around us and the events that are taking place, some call it “living in a bubble”, a feeling of being numb is a common expression. All in all it can feel like our individual worlds have become meaningless and our worlds are totally overwhelming.
Day to day life can feel like a never ending chore, struggling to cope.
This stage of denial and ultimately shock allows us to put a sense of distance between us and the enormity of the loss. (Because we cannot fully process these emotions, this distance, makes it easier to put pace on our feelings of grief).
Denial itself is a defense mechanism, something I believe that it’s our minds way of letting in only so much information that at that point of time we can physically cope with and processing tiny fragments of that information as a release. It’s kind of a circle we have to go through, as the reality of the loss is accepted in time, we begin the healing process, yet that healing process is a painful one.
I can honestly say my own personal journey of the denial stage actually came to me in years after my losses, although looking back I did live in that “bubble” for a while, some of the things I did whilst things were happening I can’t even recall to this day. Thee enormity of my loss/losses hit me in time and in waves and I can even now say many years on that I still get those moments of denial, the overwhelming feeling of not been able to cope without the people I lost.
Anger is a perfectly normal and natural response to grief and it’s healing process. Some people do not go through this stage at all and some people do, some people feel uncomfortable with the feeling anger. But, by letting yourself feel this emotion more, the more it can be released and processed within your mind.
Anger is necessary as it enables us to channel the bad energy and helps to make some sense of the pain that we feel. In my own journey of experiencing loss, I felt I had the right to be angry, I felt that the reasons to which I experienced loss lacked alot of justice and logic, my feelings at the time were neither wrong or right, good or bad, they were just how I felt at the time.
It’s OK to be snappy, it’s OK to be upset, but don’t put strain or stress on a relationship to those closest to you. Everyone copes with loss and grief in totally different ways and it’s important to remember that just because you are not OK with the stage your at in your journey it’s also OK that someone else is at a different stage to you.
There comes a point in your personal journey of grief that you can feel like you are trying to get through the darkest times struggling to find the light of the maze of regret and sad filled thoughts. It’s quite normal to have the “What if I…” or “If only I had…” floating around in your mind, of course with bereavement we would all give absolutely anything to have our loved ones back. Some of us will wish we had some kind of time machine and want to go back to try to do things differently to change the course of the outcome, this is perfectly natural to feel this way.
When your going through the bargaining side of grief it’s hard and important to exercise self-comparison, I’m far by religious in any means however, we are not God and we cannot change what has happened, no matter what did or didn’t happen. It’s quite true to say that many people at this point do lose their faith at this point.
I for one at the point of loosing my step-dad many times thought to myself, “well if there’s a God, why did he take him, surly there is no God”. So it is true to say that people can question any faith they have for the unjust reasons of loosing a loved one. I will freely admit the amount of times I thought or said to someone “I wish I’d…, I could of…, Why didn’t I…, I should of…”, to me this felt much like regret but we can all say this about many situations in life not just loosing someone, I had to first realise I couldn’t of changed the outcome no matter If I’d of, or should of, because I didn’t and that’s something I have to live with, that I cannot change things which is a step towards acceptance.
The depression stage forces us to focus on the here and now and what is happening in the present, it for many confirms there is nothing logical that can be done to alter the loss that we have endured and felt. This kind of depression differs largely from a clinical or a GP’s diagnosis of depression and it isn’t a sign of illness. What we feel during this stage is an overwhelming sadness and an emptiness inside which is a natural and normal response to a huge loss.
It presents itself as the emptiness we feel when we are continuing to try to live a normal day to day life and can feel like the whole world is against you by the realization that our love one is never coming back. You may have heard people refer to this stage as “living in a bubble”. Often people will be unable to fully tell you what they were doing within this period of time, it’s perfectly normal to feel this way and it’s our own brain’s way of shutting out irrelevant information as a coping mechanism. Alot of people also withdraw from social situations and life in general having a numb kind of feeling which is common. Facing the reality of day to day life can often seem too much to manage. Avoiding other people, not wanting to interact and feeling hopeless are all typical feelings within this stage of grief.
Personally I felt alot of this in this stage detailed above, it’s quite easy to get overwhelmed by the huge loss and sadness that you feel and when that loss does finally set in, depression is a natural phase that helps prepare us to accept what has happened even though it is unacceptable. I did seek professional help with my grief during this stage, only because I have dealt with clinical depression before and that was something I knew that I didn’t want to go through again, there are many forms of help out there, I approached my GP, but truth be told I didn’t think the answers we in pills so I never choose to take anti-depressants and for me, group counseling was a no, no.
I’m not someone who can sit in front alot of people and talk about how I feel, funny thing is all this time has past and I am still on the waiting list for one to one counseling. I couldn’t wait that amount of time to talk though, Yes I spoke to family and friends but they didn’t understand me and I was often feeling like no-one understood me and I do believe unless the person you are speaking to can really relate to you they don’t understand (that is my own opinion). I actually reached out to the Samaritans and although I have no idea who I spent weeks e-mailing back and forth with they really did help me, having that someone who didn’t know me, who couldn’t see me or my reactions really helped shape me and my thought process in dealing with things.
There is no rule of time or even if you choose to accept what has happened in your grief journey, at first you may feel that acceptance is simply more good days than bad days, or even the increased time between their frequency. For me, I think what became a progress forward in accepting my loss was being able to remember more memories without the overwhelming emotions that came with my loss if that makes sense. This final stage of the grieving process doesn’t mean we have to forgive or forget what has happened or retreat back into denial.
It’s important to remember there is never and expectation to feel all right about the loss of a loved one.
Acceptance is really when we focus on accepting the permanent reality that our loved one is physically gone, it’ll never be easy and we will never like this outcome and it’ll never be O.K, but eventually we learn to accept they are not coming back. To me it’s knowing they are never coming back and learning to live your life without them which is hard.
How I dealt with my grief
Dealing with my own grief is a very personal journey to me as it is with everyone, you may have read the five stages above and thought “well actually I’ve been back and forth through some of those”. That’s perfectly normal, I myself have been from number 1 to 5 back to 3 then 2 then 4 again, everyone’s healing process is very different and it does take time. Time doesn’t change anything, it’s not going to bring your loved one back, but with time I truly believe that you heal a tiny bit inside and although the pain never goes away it helps you moved forward with life and continue writing your story!
Don’t be ashamed to cry, be angry or want someone to talk to, it’s important that you do all three, it’s important to express how your feeling and eventually you’ll see light again, it’s not an easy process for anyone and I certainly don’t wish loss on anyone, I’ve been through hell and back and I’m still here!
I also learnt alot about myself going through this awful period of time in my life, I learnt to respect things as they are and not live life on the promises of tomorrow, no one knows how long we have on this massive planet and what we do with our time here is relevant to alot of people, we touch people in ways every day and small things you may do or say really do make a difference. If you know someone or a loved one going through Grief, just be there, don’t take things to heart it’s all normal and everyone’s reaction is different. It’s how we live our lives by being there when you don’t even realise that you are is what makes the smallest differences to others lives.
I learnt to delegate my time in my life to others, what I mean by that is it took the worst things in life that could happen to me (loss) to realise what i had, though strictly speaking that isn’t true, I knew exactly what I had, I just never thought I would loose it. The death of a parent changes you, it changes the way you think, process things going on around you and ultimately without you realizing it, it nurtures you into being a better person, it’s only been four years for me loosing my biological father and three and a half for my step father, in those years gone by I have visited each of the grief stages on more than one occasion and if I am being 100% truthful I still do to this day. Going through significant loss in my life felt so overwhelming at times and waves of grief consumed me in ways you probably will never understand and it’s something even I cannot put into words. But, I am who I am because of this change in my life, yes I hate the fact I have to live without them in my life, but i over time have accepted that they are never coming back in physical form, that doesn’t stop my non-physical thought processes happening, ya know, when a certain song plays or weird things happen, right down to the white butterfly’s! It’s these little things that help get me through some of my darkest days.
No matter who you have lost in life, they are never truly gone, they are in your memories, those memories are things that no-one can ever take from you and these are the memories you have to hold on to!
Be strong and remember we are all NEVER alone! My inbox is always open if you ever need someone just to lend an ear, don’t ever be scared to admit and ask for help!
I really hope you can take some solace from the things I have shared today and wherever you are in this humongous wide world take comfort in your heart, for everything you feel or are going through there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s only you that can guide yourself to it, and that friends takes time.