From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Grief Takes Its Toll
Grief, the experience of loss, is an unfortunate reality of life. When we lose someone
dear to us, we go through a number of different changes. Grief affects us in so many
different ways. Although we can never fully prepare ourselves, recognizing these changes
can sometimes help us cope.
- Grief is an altered state of consciousness. When crises occur, they
become our top priority. Plans are cancelled and schedules are changed so that we can
focus on the problem at hand. When our attention is so keenly focussed, emotions take over
and we are often unable to concentrate on any other matters. Our perceptions become
distorted and matters of life and death take over our minds. Another way to describe this
experience is that we "go into shock".
- The loss of a loved one forces family reorganization. When a loved one
ceases to be part of our lives, a great hole develops in our family. Family members must
take on new responsibilities, emotional needs must be met, and tasks are redistributed.
When an elder parent dies, children may become the older generation changing the entire
structure of the extended family.
- Grief causes a "Ripple Effect". Like throwing a stone into
the water, ripples are created that touch every aspect of our lives... finances,
independence, nurturing relationships, etc. Things as simple as picking up the telephone
to call, asking for advice, family occasions... all cause us to miss the person we have
lost. These occasions continue to arise on a regular basis.
- Grief lasts for a very long time. As much as we might like to "get
over it", grief takes over and does its damage. Long after the funeral, individuals
may become depressed, angry, sick, anxious, guilty or confused. Although we want to
believe that we have said our "good-byes", we may have to say them over and over
again at different points of time. When we miss them, it is sometimes valuable to write a
letter or hold an imaginary conversation with the deceased, to express our feelings and
emotions. Events such a remarriage or other life cycle events are especially good times to
communicate with the departed in some spiritual way.
- Take care of yourself. Allow yourself the "luxury" of being
depressed, sad or lonely. Repressing these feelings does not help. Think about how the
deceased would want you to recover from their loss. Honor them through deeds and
self-care. If you valued some special activity that they did, pay tribute to them by
continuing their legacy. Most of all, be aware of what you need in order to recover from
the loss and be good to yourself. If they loved you, they would want that for you.
I recently lost my mother-in-law. She was a woman who I admired greatly and who I truly
loved. She fought a battle with cancer for nearly 20 years, never letting it stop her
appreciation and enjoyment of life. She's also a woman who was widowed twice, but enjoyed
two successful 20-year marriages. I often sought her advice and learned a great deal from
her. She left many legacies through her actions, her children and her grandchildren. She
travelled the world, was philanthropic, and continued learning every day of her life.
Although her life was often filled with tragedies, she left the following advice scribbled
on a piece of paper which we found after the funeral. She wrote, "It is possible to
surrender to life's tragedies... without giving in". I have been a lucky
ęCopyright, 1994, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 25, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,