When a loved one dies it is not unusual for some regret and guilt to walk with you in your grief journey. As a survivor you may tend to blame yourself for something you think you did or did not do that may have caused the death. For you to help yourself accept the death sometimes it is necessary to replay the time, events, and the circumstances leading up to the death in order to be able to move from denial to acceptance. During that time of replay it is possible for you to find something that you feel guilty about or think if I can change what I did maybe I can change the results and bring my loved one back.
Grief and Mourning are the same thing.
Grief is the internal container. It holds all of your thought, feelings inside yourself. Mourning is when you take the grief you have inside and express it outside of yourself. Another way of defining it is “Grief Gone Public”
Grief and mourning progress in predictable, orderly stages.
You may find yourself trying to self prescribe your grief experience and force yourself to be in a “stage”. Sometimes your emotions may follow each other within a short period of time; or at other times two or more emotions may be present simultaneously. Remember -do not try to determine where “you should” be. Just allow yourself to be naturally where you are in the process. Everyone mourns in different ways.
You should move away from grief not toward it
Tears of Grief are only a sign of weakness.
Tears of grief are often associated with personal inadequacy and weakness. The worst thing you can do, however, is to allow this judgment to prevent you from crying. Don’t buy into the advice you might receive such as “Tears won’t bring him/her back” or “he or she wouldn’t want you to cry”. Crying is nature’s way of releasing internal tension in your body and allows you to communicate a need to be comforted.
After someone dies, the goal should be to “get over” your grief as soon as possible.
When a loved one dies it is not unusual for some regret and guilt to walk with you in your grief journey. As a survivor you tend to blame yourself for something you think you did or did not do that may have caused the death. For you to help yourself accept the death sometimes it is necessary to replay the time, events, and the circumstances leading up to the death in order to be able to move from denial to acceptance. During that time of replay it is possible for the you to find something to blame yourself for; possibly thinking if I can change what I did maybe I can change the results and bring my loved one back.
Guilt is a strong emotion because you are in an extremely vulnerable state. Though the guilt, regret, and self-blame are natural feelings they are most times not logical… you are not to blame for the death of your loved one.
With guilt, “the gift that keeps on giving”, there are many ways to work through this emotion:
Look for a good support person to talk to. Someone who is compassionate, patient, and non-judgmental. A support person who is a good listener.
Don’t allow others to explain your feelings away. While they might mean well this does not allow you to “talk out” what you think and feel.
Allow yourself some “review time” and continue to remind yourself that there are some things in life you cannot change.
Do not repress or ignore feelings of guilt. Physical and other emotional problems could result.
Forgive yourself, this is more important than forgiving anyone else because you have to live with yourself.
Get guilt out of your system by writing about it. This will also help you take a more objective view of it.
Do not drive yourself crazy with unanswerable “Why? Questions” and do not assume that you are so powerful that you have control over death.
Self-forgiveness, even though there is nothing to forgive, responds well when feelings are shared. A grief support group can help with the feeling that you are not alone. Also if feelings of guilt or regret are complicating your healing, don’t be ashamed to find a trained grief counselor.
- You can laugh and enjoy being with others
- Taking care of yourself is not only OK; but it feels good
- The future is not so frightening.
- You can handle “special days” without falling apart.
- You want to reach out to others in need or pain.
- You now enjoy activities that you had given up after the death of the person you loved.
- You can share humorous memories without crying.
- Your emotional roller coaster is slowing down.
- You can actually see some progress.
- You skip or forget a ritual such as visiting the cemetery and there is no guilt.
Do not be alarmed if one day you suddenly feel the pangs of grief again and believe that you are slipping back into the valley of grief. These moments will come when you least expect, but you will be able to handle the situation without panic.
Since the death of the person you loved, life will never be what it once was and that is reality. Life has taken a different direction and you will never forget your loss but the pain becomes bearable and at times touch the tender memories will not elicit pain at all. By: Sister Theresa McIntier, R.N. M.J.
One of the misconceptions at the workplace is about locking up all your emotions while you are working. You’re suppose to leave all emotional baggage at the door before entering and not unlock them until you leave eight hours later at the end of the day. This is just one of society’s avoidance messages. The truth is we can’t turn our emotions on and off on any given time; much less when we are grieving the death of a loved one.
It is likely that a coworker is grieving due to the death of a loved one at some point in the workplace. People are not prepared for the emotional, spiritual, physical, and social pain and powerful emotions that come with grief as a result of a death. The first emotions that come are usually shock, numbness, denial and disbelief; although grief does not come in orderly stages those are the first emotions to set in and begin the grief process. Others such as sadness, panic, fear, anger, guilt, loneness, just to mention a few may come at any given time. They won’t wait until the work day is over; they are there morning, noon and night.
How can you help coworkers with their grief?
- Get comfortable acknowledging grief and mourning at work.
- Ask how you can help.
- Invite sharing, talking and use the name of their loved one who died.
- Don’t try to lessen the loss with easy answers.
- Don’t feel that you must have something to say, listen, listen and listen to them.
- Don’t use clichés: “I know how you feel”, “he’s out of pain and in a better place”, etc.
- Make a meal, run an errand, give them a ride
- Help your coworker move towards their grief, not away by ignoring it, encourage
- crying, talking, sharing of memories and writing by journalizing or writing to the deceased.
- Attend the funeral, memorial service or whatever the family has planned.
- Send flowers, meals, or donate your time.
- Coordinate your workplace support, join together to help.
- Maybe establish a memorial fund in the deceased name.
- Make a memory board or book inviting other coworkers to place pictures or write a letter or write their memories of that person.
- Remember the person who died on special days and holidays.
Your support and understanding can make a significant difference and are especially needed when the reality hits and the long process of grief begins. Keep listening; don’t change the conversation if the loved one is mentioned. The bereaved may repeat their stories often but that is how they learn to really believe that their loved one has died. Be sensitive to their needs and moods. Don’t force conversation or advice. Keep in touch, be available and again listen.
Encourage them to find more emotional help through support groups, their church or giving them books, videos, newsletters, or articles on grief.
The support of compassionate friends, coworkers, and employers can and does make a significant difference.
Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you. The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to help you decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.
- You have the right to experience your own unique grief. No one else will grieve exactly the same way that you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.
- You have the right to talk about your grief. Talking about your grief will make you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want about your grief.
- You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.
- You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.
- You have the right to experience “grief attacks”. Sometimes, out of nowhere, grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.
- You have the right to make use of ritual. The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More important, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you that rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.
- You have the right to embrace your spirituality. If faith is part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry with God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.
- You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now? Some of your questions may have answers but some may not. And watch out for the cliché responses some people may give. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “think of what you have to be thankful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.
- You have the right to treasure your memories. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share.
- You have the right to move toward your grief. Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.
Reprinted from “Understanding Grief” by Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD
Compiled and submitted by Carole McLeod of Grief Matters
To my dearest family, some things I’d like to say…but first of all, to let you know that I arrived okay. I’m writing this from heaven. Here I dwell with God above, here, there’s no more tears of sadness; here is just eternal love.
Please do not be unhappy just because I’m out of sight. Remember that I’m with you every morning, noon and night. That day I had to leave you when my life on earth was through, God picked me up and hugged me and He said, “I welcome you.”
It’s good to have you back again; you were missed while you were gone. As for your dearest family, they’ll be here later on. I need you here badly; you’re part of my plan. There’s so much that we have to do, to help our mortal man.”
God gave me a list of things that he wished for me to do. And foremost on the list, was to watch and care for you. And when you lie in bed at night, the day’s chores put to flight. God and I are closest to you…in the middle of the night.
When you think of my life on earth, and all those loving years, because you are only human, they are bound to bring you tears. But do not be afraid to cry; it does relieve the pain. Remember there would be no flowers, unless there was some rain.
I wish that I could tell you all that God has planned. But if I were to tell you, you wouldn’t understand. But one thing is for certain, though my life on earth is o’er, I’m closer to you now, than I ever was before.
There are many rocky roads ahead of you and many hills to climb; but together we can do it by taking one day at a time. It was always my philosophy and I’d like it for you too…that as you give unto the world, the world will give to you.
If you can help somebody who’s in sorrow and pain, then you can say to God at night…”My day was not in vain.” And now I am contented…that my life has been worthwhile, knowing as I passed along the way, I made somebody smile.
So if you meet somebody who is sad and feeling low, just lend a hand to pick him up, as on your way you go. When you’re walking down the street, and you’ve got me on your mind; I’m walking in your footsteps only half a step behind.
And when it’s time for you to go…from that body to be free, remember you’re not going…you’re coming here to me.