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A Discussion About Loss
Grief work is a process, it is hard work and takes lots of time. Of course, you already know that. One thing I have learned over the years is that there are a lot of people in the world that are more than willing to tell you how you "should" grieve and what you "should" feel. These same people will tell you when you "should" be over your grief. These people often have the ability to tell you what type of relationship you "should" be in now. Personally, I don't believe in "shoulds". No person has the right to tell another person how to feel, what to think, or what to do, especially when it comes to grieving. I will not tell you what you should do.
A grief counselor will share with you what is typical, what others have taught them, and what you might expect. When it comes to grief work there is nothing in stone except for one thing....it hurts. Your grief counselor's goal is to support you as you move through this process.
DEFINITION OF GRIEF:
Grief is a normal and natural reaction to having a loss in your life. Life is no longer normal. Grief is the process of creating a new normal life. Creating a new normal takes time... much more than people realize. Creating a new normal takes work... harder work than anyone ever knew. It is possible to survive this grief. It is possible to create a new normal. It is even possible to enjoy life again. Not right now but some day in the future.
And now on to the process of grieving:
SYMPTOMS OF GRIEF
Over the years grief counselors have heard horror stories about what people are told they should or should not be feeling. People's feelings of being overwhelmed because they feel they are doing the "grief stuff" wrong... they "should" be farther along in the process than they are.
When a person's life has been torn apart due to a death there are too many changes to try to understand them all at once. Because people do not expect all of these changes, they often become worried about themselves. Sometimes people even feel that they are going "crazy" because they struggle with so many new and challenging thoughts and feelings. In addition to behavior changes that have been mentioned previously, here are a few common changes in thought patterns
For many people confusion does not begin immediately. Rather, the confusion often "arrives" 2-3 months after the loss. This late arrival of the confusion can add to the stress for a person who was feeling particularly good about being clear minded. "What happened to me?" is a common question when the confusion begins. This "grief confusion" is different than a person might expect because of its longevity. It expresses itself as an inability to think clearly and logically. What is really happening is that the grieving person is putting a great deal of emotional and spiritual energy into the question, "How do I survive without my loved one?" With the person's energy going into that question of survival, other more everyday concerns have less importance. When something has less importance, a person does not concentrate on it or remember it as easily as before. As a person begins to realize that survival is possible, the confusion begins to give way to the ability to sort out and cope with all the issues and decisions which need to be made.
Reality is that you are probably not as absent-minded as you feel. Forgetting or losing items is common because the concentration level is not high while a person is mourning a loss. Compared to your loved one all those things you are forgetting or losing simply are not that important. As you continue to cope with being without your loved one, you will grow more able to cope with the more common everyday decisions.
INABILITY TO CONCENTRATE
Most people in mourning cannot concentrate for very long at any one time. Again, it goes back to thinking about and outing your emotional and spiritual energy into your loved one and how you are going to survive without that person. Do not expect that you will be able to concentrate for long periods of time. Give yourself one job to do at a time and a longer period of time to complete it than you think is needed. Give yourself permission to stop and remember. Memories are very important. Hold them close to you.
DIFFICULTY MAKING DECISIONS
I know one person who for weeks after a loss could not order anything off a menu. Trying to make that simple a decision was too difficult. Once again, your energy and what is important to you is not what is on the menu but your loved one. This ability to make decisions will return. It may be a few months, but it will return. Until it does, be honest and tell your family, you simply cannot put your energy into some decisions and that you need them to help you with these smaller decisions. Large or important decisions may need to be made by you and only you. If that is the case, take your time and know that you are only able to do the best that you know how to do.