If you have been following me, this blog is about Living life, having fun and connecting with others. So why the hell am I writing about something that is sad? Experiencing loss is part of life. In a previous post, I mentioned that I volunteer at a Hospice. I am actually offering free Reiki at the hospice to help people relax, and hopefully heal a little. I haven’t ventured into home visits for those ailing and dying. That said, when you think of a hospice, you likely think of people in palliative care or dying. I thought it to be worthwhile to explore the differences around grief, bereavement and mourning. There are subtle differences.. I am signed up to take a course on grief and bereavement through the hospice as I do have an interest in it. Inevitably, we all will die or experience some sort of loss so I figure it is best to embrace it or find ways or tips on how to cope. People I have met during my cancer story, have experienced loss, like loss of body parts, loss of jobs, loss of relationships so grief isn’t just about someone passing away. I love learning new things and if I can learn some tips to avoid being paralized by grief, why not? If I learn any tips in the course, I will be sure to share the wealth!!
I figured I better start with looking at the dictionary definitions for mourning, grief and bereavement.
MOURNING- the expression of deep sorrow for someone who has died, typically involving following certain conventions such as wearing black clothes
GRIEF-deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.
BEREAVEMENT-the action or condition of being bereaved.”there is no right way to experience bereavement”
So these dictionary defintions didn’t really help me. I had to do a bit more research. So, I hope I got this right. Based on what I read, “Mourning” goes with grief and is really how we show our grief. Mourning can involve religious beliefs/rituals and can be different based on our ethnic background or customs. Mourning helps to prepare people to separate from their lost family member or friend. It also provides some structure to the process as you tend to see friends and relatives while going through the motions of a funeral. Grief is really how someone reacts to the loss of a loved one. Grieving can take a long time and really is the process of coping with a loss. It can take on many different emotions. No one really expresses grief the same way and every loss is different. Bereavement is really the period of time a person experiences sadness. Grief and mourning happen during a period of time called bereavement. Based on what I read this is what I gather……mourning=rituals, grief=sad, bereavement=time being sad.
Stages of Grief?
I have read there are either 5 or 7 stages of grief and in some cases 12. I personally think 5 makes sense and will define those. Looks like someone called Kubler-Ross added 2 steps, that I put in italics to the 5 stage grief cycle.
- denial/isolation— This may start before the loss occurs if the death of the loved one is expected. It can begin immediately at the time or shortly after the loss. It can last anywhere from a few hours to days or weeks. The feelings experienced in the first stage of grief may be fear, shock, or numbness. The grieving person may avoid others or avoid talking about the loss.
- anger– This stage can last for days, weeks, or months. Initially it may be expressed as frustration/anxiety. This stage can involve anger, loneliness, or uncertainty. Sometimes you can feel disorganized or out of sorts.
- bargaining– This stage is said to be shorter than others. The person grieving is trying to find meaning for the loss. They may reach out to others and tell their story and may start to think more clearly about the changes that the loss has imposed on them.
- depression– Depression can set in once the person realizes how their life has changed. The person can feel overwhelmed, helpless and sometimes withdraw. Some get hostile…
- acceptance– This is the last stage when people come to terms and accept the loss. This can take a few months to a year and includes adjusting to daily life.
How Grief can affect you physically?
I know you can feel physically ill with grief. Here are list of possible physical reactions:
- tight chest, palpitations
- shortness of breath
- diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting
- crying or sighing
- lack of energy or weakness
- dizziness, shivering or faintness
- loss of appetite or overeating
- trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- increased alcohol or drug use
- reduced sexual drive
How can Grief affect you mentally?
Your mental state can be affected as follows:
- poor concentration
- confusion, disbelief
- constant thoughts about the person
- daydreaming, distracted
How about emotionally?
Emotions can change frequently and can include the following:
- shock, numbness or emptiness
- denial or disbelief
- anger or rage
- denial or disbelief
- guilt or regrets
- sadness, depression or despair
- loneliness or isolation
I can certainly identify with spiritually being affected. Sometimes losing someone or something important can have you question the meaning of life or the purpose of life. Some may want to die to join the dead person or constantly ask “why did this happen?” Socially, you may withdraw, lack interest in other’s activities or have unrealistic expectations.
After my research and reading, I understand that grief can affect you on all levels. It really could be crippling. I am no newbie to people close to me dying. I saw my Dad pass away from a massive stroke in 1999. He was only 59 years old. There was also the time, I identified my grandma’s body when she unexpectedly died in 1995. That was surreal….I looked at her body with her eyes open staring back at me and purple starting to form in her cheek. I started talking to myself, out loud, flipping between saying “That’s her” then wait, “No that’s not her”. I stared at her for about 10 minutes. I think I was a bit shocked as I had just spoken to her about 1 hour before on the phone. At the hospital, they said there was no need for me to identify the body, but I couldn’t believe it and had to see her for myself. I was the last person in my family to have talked to her. I had arranged a dinner for my parents that were due to return that same day from a vacation in Hawaii. My grandmother was suppose to be at that dinner. Oddly, someone called to say my grandmother would not be attending dinner with no explanation. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t call me directly and I insisted that they put her on the phone. Her voice sounded raspy like she had a cold and she told me she just didn’t feel well. I asked if she wanted me to take her to the doctor and she said no need as she was seeing her doctor at 1 pm. I had an odd feeling when she hung up the phone and started making preparations to head to her place anyway. Before I could get out the door, the phone rang and her neighbor said she was being taken to the hospital. By the time I got to the hospital, no more than 30 minutes later, I was told she passed away. After arguing with myself and staring at her body, it finally sunk in that she actually died. I then went into action, rallying my brother and husband to pick up my mom and dad from the airport. I originally was suppose to pick up my parents with my husband, but I knew my Mom would know something was wrong if she saw me. We agreed not to share the bad news til they arrived back home. That is one way to end a vacation, NOT!! We all have had some experiences with death and somehow handle it..sometimes well, sometimes not but eventually I think people find their way. It really just takes time.
It just occurred to me that I have to write another post about the strange things people do, say and want when people die… Strange things can happen, relationships can be ripped apart…it can get ugly. I will probably write about that soon..so stay tuned!
In any event, I hope to learn how to make it a good mourning and the best bereavement process possible. I am not sure there is anything that can make it a good grief.
There are many books out there on this subject. I thought I would share some online resources that may be helpful. These links were shared with me from the course I took to become a volunteer for the hospice. I am sure there are others good resources as well…but it’s nice to have a few to peruse.
I have added a new resource link below. This site is geared toward those with Substance Use Disorders (SUD) I find it very insightful and hope it helps.
If you have ways to cope with grief or an experience you want to share, feel free to leave a comment. In any event, I will let you know what I learn after I take the course in April…