Considering Grief and Loss (Part 1 of 2)
By Rick McGregor, MA, LMHC
Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the hardest challenges that many of you will face. When you lose a spouse, parent, sibling or child your grief can be particularly intense. Grief and loss is a normal and natural part of life, but knowing so doesn’t remove the shock, confusion, sadness and depression. The sadness typically diminishes in intensity as time passes, but grieving is an important process in order to work through the feelings and move forward.
Grief is a reaction to loss that can encompass a range of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and is experienced differently by each person, according to your personality, beliefs, and relationship to the deceased. Feelings common to grief are sadness, yearning, guilt, regret, anger, and a sense meaninglessness can also be present. Emotions can be surprising in their strength or mildness, contrary to the expectations of the griever.
Thoughts during grief can vary from “there’s nothing I can do about it” to “it’s my fault, I could have done more” to “he had a good life” or “it wasn’t her time.” Your thoughts can be troubling or soothing, and as you grieve your thoughts can bounce all over as you try to make sense of your loss. Grieving behaviors run from crying to laughter, sharing feelings to engaging silently in activities. They can involve being with others or by oneself.
How long does it take to Grieve?
It is helpful to know that grief is natural and time limited. You can experience grief from weeks to years, and it is usually different for each relationship. It is also normal to experience joy, contentment and humor while experiencing the worse loss. Factors that will help you soothe your grief and heal include social support, personal faith, optimism, and physical exercise. You will most likely recover from your grief and involve yourself with usual activities, while feeling moments of sadness, within a few months. Some feel better after about a year to a year and a half. For others, your grief may be longer lasting, continuing for an extended time without seeming to improve. The reason could be due to factors prior to the loss such as pre-existing depression or high dependency on the one lost. The truth is everyone grieves at their own pace and in their own way. You may be emotional and dive into your feelings or more stoic and may seek distractions to help cope with the loss. Neither is necessarily better than the other, but at any time you are concerned about whether your grief-related feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are normal or healthy, meeting with a Christian counselor would be advised.
It has been my privilege as a pastor and now as a counselor to work with hundreds of people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. Coping with the grief that comes from losing a spouse may be one of the hardest challenges you will face. When you lose a spouse, grief can be particularly intense. An experienced Christian counselor, pastor or trusted friend can help you walk through the fear, anxiety, guilt or pain associated with the death of a loved one.