Very frequently those mourning the loss of a close loved one will wonder if it is normal to feel like they are going “crazy”. The quick and simple answer is “yes, it is normal.” Mourners sometimes experience a disconnection when their loved ones die. Often it is difficult to accept the new reality that the loved one is no longer alive and a part of the mourner’s physical world. Mourners may expect to see their loved ones when they go into another room in the house. Or, they may expect to wake up and see their loved ones close by as they were before they died. Even when the telephone rings, mourners may expect to hear their loved ones’ voices when answering calls. Occasionally, mourners will experience something and then have the urge to share the experience with their loved ones, only to realize that they are not physically with them anymore. Mourners may also feel that the pain of separation will never go away. As time passes and the new reality sinks it, mourners gradually adjust to the “new normal”. Eventually, they lose the sense that they are going crazy and that their world is completely turned upside down.
It is not unusual for mourners to wonder how long their grief will last. Some mourners may question whether they have grieved long enough; other mourners may be concerned that they have grieved too long. How long should a grief journey last? There is no simple answer to this question and there is no magic number in terms of weeks, months, or years. Each grief journey is unique and different. Two family members mourning the loss of the same loved one will experience different journeys of different lengths. One may be ready to move on after just a few weeks while the other person may need more time. Even a person experiencing several losses will gradually discover that the grief journey for each loss is unique and cannot be compared with other grief journeys. Because there is no “one size fits all”, mourners should not place unrealistic expectations upon themselves to complete their journeys according to a time schedule. Instead, they can be comforted knowing that the journey will eventually come to an end.
Living with and traveling through grief is indeed a journey, one that may be among the most challenging journeys of life. The journey through grief is the journey from darkness into light; from despair to hope; from denial to acceptance; from anger to peace; from crying to smiling; from lost to found. But, most of all, the grief journey is a journey from death to resurrection. When a loved one dies, mourners experience a type of dying. While they do not die physically, a part of them dies emotionally and spiritually. Life as they lived it will never be the same.READ MORE
Grieving can cause the mourner to experience a variety of emotions, remorse being one of them. Remorse can take the form of the mourner thinking of all the things that he/she should have or could have done, but didn’t do. If only I would have..., maybe things would have been better; maybe my loved one would have lived longer; maybe my loved one would not have suffered so much, etc. Living in the world of remorse is like falling into quicksand. This emotion can pull the mourner into a deep depression from which it is very difficult to escape. Sometimes the mourner wonders if his/her loved one and God will ever be able to forgive her/him for what was not done that could have been done. Eventually, he/she must open the door to healing by forgiving him/herself. With time, the grieving person will hopefully realize and accept that she/he did the best that she/he could do given the circumstances surrounding the loved one’s death.
Grief is often an experience filled with many surprises. One surprise that occurs frequently after the loved one has died comes in the form of an unexpected emotional response to something that reminds the mourner of his/her loved one.
For some, it may be a favorite song, the scent of a favorite perfume or after-shave, a "twin" who bears a striking resemblance to the deceased loved one, a favorite eating place, a favorite movie or television show. What may be shocking is that the response seems to come out of nowhere at a time when the mourner no long considers her/himself to be actively mourning. A surprise of this type is normal even if it happens several years after the initial period of mourning. It is part of the journey through grief that becomes easier with the passage of time, but is never totally completed. When the surprise occurs, it is best to experience and express the emotions instead of trying to suppress or ignore them. As time passes, the surprises occur less frequently and the intensity of the response diminishes.
Many people grieving the loss of a loved one may wonder if the journey is taking too long. Mourners may cling to the past afraid to let go of the life they once knew and afraid of what lies ahead. In this situation, the focus is on the past, and the grief journey does not lead to a renewal of life. In another situation, comments from family and friends may cause mourners to feel guilty about taking so long to get over the loss of their loved ones. In yet another situation, mourners may notice that other mourners appear to be making great progress while they see little, if any. Both of these can cause mourners to feel that there is something wrong with them.READ MORE
The holidays are meant to be a joyous time spent with family and friends. For those who may be mourning the death of a loved one, the holidays can be very depressing in addition to stressful. Some of the stress comes from others who mean well, but do not know how to be supportive of someone who is grieving. To make the holidays less stressful, share this column with your family members and friends so that they know what is and is not appropriate.READ MORE