Grief can follow a wave-like pattern
Grieving is a very individual and personal experience. There is no foreseeable schedule for grief, which usually follows a wave-like pattern of ups and downs.
When grieving, it is normal to have good days and bad days and with the passing of time the waves of grief minimise in intensity and frequency and everyday routine slowly becomes easier. Life can be enjoyed again by giving yourself permission to grieve.
Grieving does not mean forgetting your loved one as many people fear, healthy grieving means giving yourself the time and space you need in order to adjust to the fact of your loved one not being here anymore.
Many people who are going through the grieving process find Journaling very therapeutic. Journaling is something you can do privately. Often people find great advantage in being able to express their thoughts and feelings. Insights about your feelings and reactions to grief can help you to cope better with the daily challenges of life.
There are no hard and fast rules about journaling, you can write about anything, for example:
• Your thoughts about your loved one's death.
• About the day your loved one died.
• The void you now feel.
• Different memories you may cherish.
• The things you didn't get a chance to say to your loved one.
• How life has altered and continues to change.
There is no need to be concerned about capital letters, full stops, spelling. This journal belongs to you and is for you. It is important to date your writing as you can track your progress and sometimes it can be interesting to go back over your journal and see what in your life has changed during your grieving progress and how far you may have come over time. Journaling increases your awareness of self and develops your ability to manage and handle grief in a healthy way.
When you are grieving, especially in the early stages of grief, you are likely to have many thoughts that are not correct or may in fact even be unhelpful.
During this difficult time your thoughts may become distorted because you are vulnerable and not thinking as comprehensible as usual. The way we think affects how we feel and behave.
Once you can express your thoughts you can set about challenging them if they are unrealistic or not serving you well. Challenging your thoughts is not a magic cure. What you are aiming to do is to make certain that your thinking is helpful and accurate, which will permit you to grieve the loss of your loved one in a healthy way. Changing the way you think takes practice.
Challenging your unhelpful thoughts is done by asking yourself a series of questions. For example:
• Where is the evidence for what I am thinking?
• Is there any alternative way of thinking?
• What is the likely effect on me of thinking in this way?
• How would I advise my best friend to think in this situation?
During the grieving process it is normal to feel shock, numbness, sadness and anger. As time passes these emotions should become less acute as the loss is accepted. Seek the help of a professional therapist if your feel you are stuck in your grief.
By Kay McSeeeney, Professional Counsellor working, by appointment, at Cooper MediCare, 17 Ashe Street, Tralee.