By Larry Moliterno, CEO, Meridian HealthCare
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Grief is a complex and overwhelming emotion. It can be experienced in many types of situations, such as loss of a loved one, a job or a relationship.
We all respond to grief differently – not eating or eating too much, not sleeping or sleeping too much, or resorting to unhealthy coping skills.
A lot of emotions rise to the surface when you deal with loss. Sadness. Guilt. Anger. Regret. Anxiety. Shock. And in some situations, even relief.
The uncertainty of how things will be without that person in your life is unavoidable.
A few years back, a friend of mine lost a parent after an extended illness. Toward the end of her dad’s life, she became the caregiver and spent most of her time visiting him and making sure he ate and took his medicine — all while he was losing his memory of her.
When he passed on, she felt relieved. She got her “normal” life back, and he was no longer confused or in pain.
Horrible guilt can follow a feeling like that, but it’s completely OK to feel that way and to get help with talking through those feelings if you’re having trouble accepting them.
It’s OK to feel angry. It’s OK to feel sad. It’s OK to wish you had said or done something before it was too late. It’s OK to feel relief, and it’s OK to feel guilt. It’s OK to not be OK.
You might feel OK weeks later. You might even feel OK during the holidays. But the smallest things can bring on the biggest, most unexpected emotions.
You could be driving home from work and instinctively pick up the phone to call your mom, only to realize that she won’t be there to answer. When overwhelming grief hits, it’s important to know it’s never too late to get support. There is no timeline for grief – you are learning to live your life in a new way.
For many people, seeing a professionally licensed counselor can be a great help in maneuvering through the grieving process.
A counselor can help you create healthy coping skills, develop a trusted support system and work on things like self-care and sleep hygiene – all tools that allow you to dig deeper and process your loss.
Sometimes, counselors use a therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy as a common approach to grief. While it might sound fancy, cognitive behavioral therapy simply allows patients to identify negative thoughts that get in the way of processing grief.
Another common way to process grief is through Worden’s four tasks of mourning:
• Accept the loss.
• Acknowledge the pain of the loss.
• Adjust to a new environment.
• Reinvest in the reality of a new life.
Remember, the grieving process is very individualized. A counselor can give you the support you need, allowing you to feel what you want and need to feel.
And if someone close to you has experienced a loss, make sure to stay in contact with them.
While we all think of important dates like birthdays or anniversaries as triggering events, remember that it may be those little things – like sitting on the deck alone on a sunny morning or that familiar cigar or perfume smell – that can remind someone of their loss. There is no timeline for grief. You are learning to live your life in a new way, and there is help when you need it.