COMMON GRIEF EXPERIENCES
According to research some of the most common experiences of grief are:
- NUMBNESS: Numbness is our body's preparation for dealing with death. We need a period of transition between two realities- the one before the death and the other afterward. Numbness is a natural feeling.
- SADNESS TO DESPAIR: Sadness seems to underlie nearly everything we do during the grieving period. It is a result of the constancy of the reality that death has occurred and life has changed. Despair, on the other hand, is the tragic feeling that something enormous has happened and there is nothing in the world we can do about it.
- APPETITE CHANGES: Our chemical selves react differently to grief. The overdose of adrenaline and thyroxin, which are pouring into our systems every time we think about the loss, either can cause nausea and food is distasteful, or an acidic feeling which thinks it needs food to cure. Therefore we either eat more or we eat less. Hence we either gain weight or we lose it.
- ANXIETY: Nervousness and restlessness are pervasive feelings during grief because reality has changed. When we can no longer predict our world it becomes a frightening place in which to live.
- SLEEPING PROBLEMS: What we do not deal with during the day tends to keep us awake at night. Grieving is a 24 hour job. It changes our sleep patterns, our dream cycles, and hence our times of rest may not be as restful.
- ANGER: We are taught from childhood that the world is supposed to be fair. When death strikes, fairness is called into question. We are incensed that the world is not the just place we worked for years to maintain. Anger can also be a blanket for pain. It is sometimes easier to be furious and direct this energy at some target than acknowledge and experience the deep raw hurt of grief.
- GUILT: When death appears to be meaningless, we search for the control that explanation and information can bring. If we can find the meaning, we have an easier time acknowledging an event. One of the best places to find explanation is within ourselves. This is when we blame and feel guilt- at least it is an answer.
- DEPRESSION: Our grieving system needs to be shut down for awhile. It is exhausting to grieve. The death of an old way of life, an old reality, an attachment that is gone forever must be acknowledged and resolved. When a grieving person is deeply depressed, they know absolutely that death is real. There is no more denial or pretending. It is absolute confrontation. This is painful but positive.
- IDENTITY: Self-confidence, esteem, social patterns and behaviors, roles as spouse, mother, father, brother, etc. are all undergoing revision during the grieving process. Frustration with oneself and the expectations of others is very draining. People may be surprised that they do not want to do the things they used to enjoy. Habits may change or intensify. Needs are often difficult to define, and impossible to fulfill.
DEALING WITH GRIEF
Why do we grieve? Understanding ourselves is important any time in life, but it is of particular significance during times of intense stress. The bereavement period is one of the most stressful events in life. Stress is best defined as the body's need to adjust to a perceived threat. The greatest threats to human beings are loss of control and loss of reality. Both are the inevitable result of major change, particularly death.
All of us must face the death of a loved one at some point in our lives. When someone close to us dies there is a loss of reality. Reality for each of us is a pattern of living and expectations for dealing with life on a day-to-day basis. When a death occurs our reality crumbles and everything becomes new again. Our old patterns do not seem to work and this can lead to a loss of identity and feelings that we have lost control. We may wonder; "Am I still a son if my father died?", "Am I still a wife if my husband died?", "Who am I now?" As survivors, building new realities is our "griefwork". We can learn to regain control by creating new patterns of living so that we can cope from day to day. It is always important to remember: You are normal; the situation is not.
In experiencing grief we may go through a full range of sometimes contradictory emotions such as denial, anger, sorrow, guilt and relief. We may even fluctuate from feeling stable to being deeply depressed. It is important to note that we may need to be careful of anything that discusses grief in stages. Grief (and the "griefwork" that goes along with it) is a process. It is difficult to measure and is predictable only to the extent that there are common emotions and experiences. When they occur and if they occur, they will be highly individual.
LOCAL SUPPORT GROUPS & ORGANIZATIONS
Area Council on Aging/Homebound Meals -1-800-589-1121
Area Transportation Services-City Bus - (765)668-4445
Cornerstone Behavioral Health - Kelvin Twigg - (765) 662-3971
Program helping those who are coping with a loss due to death or the ending of a marriage or partnership. Can meet with a group or on an individual basis.
Gilead Ministries - Bill Sparks - (765) 664-3734
Ministry providing encouragement to those individuals dealing with cancer, long term illness and grief. E-mail or visit the Web site.
Grace Community Widow & Widower Group - Tom Mansbarger - (765)664-3450
Heartprints - Lora Clark (765)517-2036 or Nancy Rosinski (765)662-4533
Support group for those who have suffered the loss of an infant through miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, etc..
JOURNEY (Bereaved Support Group ,Marion General Hospital) - Nancy Rosinski (765)662-4533
Open Arms - Joani Cutshaw - 317-621-5275
Support group for those who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy or the death of a newborn.
Parents Without Partners/Chapter #398 - P.O. Box 914, Marion, IN 46952 - (765)671-1088
Pastoral Counseling Service - Life Center Counseling (765)674-2208
Social Security Administration - (765)664-7367/1-800-772-1213
The Compassionate Friends-Anderson Chapter (765)642-9077
Senior Citizens Center-Marion/Grant County Senior Center - Carolyn Williams (765)662-6772
Veteran's Administration - (765)674-3321/1-800-827-1000
SUPPORT GROUP FOR CHILDREN
Erin's House - 260-423-2466
Erin's House provides support services for children, teens and their families who have suffered the death of a loved one.
Home Helpers - Joel Hunt - 765-677-1670
Agency that provides clients with non-medical care and companionship when needed. Caregivers will provide help with such things as light housecleaning, laundry, meals, shopping, and much more.
Lifestream - Dial 2-1-1 (toll free) or 1-800-589-1121
Agency that provides services that help seniors and disabled individuals remain independent. These services include such things as Aging and Resource Center, transportation, nutrition, caregiver, housing, guardianships, and more.
WHAT CAN I DO ?
Here are some suggestions on how to relieve some of the stress that can be so overwhelming.
1. Crying: Some people cry inside and do not show it. Others are wracked with sobs. Crying is a normal and most basic response to anxiety, frustration and fear. Crying is a chemical as well as a psychological release. It has been proven that tears of grief have a different chemical make-up from tears of laughter. This is an indication that a different biochemical system is tapped into when there are tears of grief. What does this mean?; crying is healthy!
2. Companionship vs. Privacy: Find a balance between the two. Allowing yourself to have time to think about the person who has died, process feelings and feel sad is important. It is also important to share your feelings with someone you can trust. Talking about it helps us process our grief.
3. Support and assistance in becoming socially reactivated: Find someone you can get out of the house with to go to church or have lunch. It is important to be around people who will let you express your grief without embarrassment.
4. Special assistance regarding business affairs and legal matters: We have enough stress placed on us when a loved one dies without having to worry about probate problems and sorting medical bills. It may help to find an attorney to hash out the legal technicalities of settling the estate. You may find that all of the paperwork involved can be more than overwhelming.
5. Exercise! Exercise helps cleanse the system by removing the waste materials and prevents wear and tear on the body. Exercise also promotes the release of endorphins which will help block some of the hormones that are released when our body is under stress. When we take time out for a walk or jog we can "get away" and have some time to relax. Everyone needs time to clear their head.
6. Eat right! The chemical changes that are happening to your body because it is under such stress can really wear down the system. It is now more important than ever to watch what we eat. Proper nutrition will help keep the immune system from breaking down. It is helpful to stay away from alcohol, salt, excessive sugar, and tranquilizers.
NATIONAL SUPPORT GROUPS & ORGANIZATIONS
People who have experienced the death of a close friend or relative often develop valuable insight and can understand the value of sharing their experiences with a newly bereaved person. Groups such as the ones listed here can offer the grieving person valuable information and, in many cases, tremendous emotional support. This is an abbreviated guide to several helpful organizations at the national level and their general purposes. Some of these organizations have chapters located in various communities throughout the country. If a particular organization does not have a chapter locally, contact the national office for more information and assistance.
CANDLELIGHTERS CHILDHOOD CANCER FOUNDATION
7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 460
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 657-8401 (800) 366-2223
This is an international organization of parents whose children have cancer or have died from this disease. A Candlelighters publication states the group's focus this way: "Candlelighters parents share the shock of diagnosis, the questions about treatment, the anxiety of waiting, the despair of loss, the hope of remission, the joy of cure."
THE COMPASSIONATE FRIENDS
P.O. Box 3696
Oak Brook, IL. 60522-3696
This is a support group for bereaved parents who "need not walk alone. We are Compassionate Friends-people who care and share and listen to each other." Group discussions range from helping the grieving accept death to handling family holidays after the death of a child. A wide range of literature and other information is available.
CENTER FOR LOSS AND LIFE TRANSITION
3735 Broken Bow Road
Fort Collins, CO. 80526
The Center For Loss and Transition specialized in providing quality workshop presentations to a variety of sponsors throughout the country. A wide range of topics within the area of death, grief, loss and life transition are available to choose from. Custom programs are often specifically designed to meet the many needs of the sponsor.
THE NATIONAL HOSPICE ORGANIZATION
1901 N. Moore Street, Suite 901
Arlington, VA. 22209
Hospice is a non-profit, community-based organization of volunteers, lay persons and professionals who provide specialized health care program for the terminally ill. The aim of Hospice is to provide a supporting environment where the terminally ill can live their lives fully and meaningfully, and be able to die in a hospice-supported facility or at home with the companionship of family and friends. While many are aware of its focus on the needs of the dying, Hospice also offers support to the family before, during and and following the death of the terminally ill person.
PARENTS WITHOUT PARTNERS
401 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL. 60611-4267
(312) 644-6610 (800) 637-7974
This is a non-sectarian organization with over 700 chapters,all concerned with the welfare of single parents and their children. With their motto, "Sharing by Caring", Parents Without Partners assures them they are not alone.
NATIONAL SUDDEN INFANT DEATH ALLIANCE
1314 Bedford Avenue, Suite 210
(410) 653-8226 (800) 221-SIDS
The foundation and its many community chapters provide information, literature and support to parents who have lost children to SIDS (crib death) or SIDS-related symptoms. The national organization also provides films, training support materials and a parent-to-parent contact referral service.
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