In 1969 Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published her Five Stages of Grief. They were denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
What has been discovered over the years is that people may very well experience some or all those emotions but there is no timeline and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no check list to use. Grieving is messy and unpredictable. Just when you think you are doing ‘better’ you hear a song, run across a picture, watch a home movie, and you turn into a puddle once again.
Some of the feelings a person may feel are anger, agitation, betrayal, despair, emptiness, fear, guilt, numbness and thankfulness, just to name a few.
Some of the mental reactions may be low self-esteem, trouble concentrating, and trouble making decisions. There can also be both physical as well as spiritual reactions such as changes in your sleep, fatigue, weight changes, feeling anxious, feeling angry, lost, questioning your relationship with God.
At times a person feels driven to get everything taken care of but find they don’t have the energy. Some may need to have time alone and others may be afraid to be alone.
All these symptoms and feelings are normal. Don’t listen when people say, “you should……or when my spouse/loved one died I did this.” Remember, we all grieve different, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. People are well meaning but often can cause more discomfort. Listen to your heart and give yourself permission to laugh, cry, be still, be busy, whatever you need at the time that works for you.
There may come a time when you feel like you could use some help. There is a grief support group available at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Park Rapids and one offered in Detroit Lakes. It helps to share time with others who are also going through the roller coaster of grief.
But, how do you know if you need more than a support group? Allow yourself a year of just getting used to life without that person and learning what your ‘new normal’ will be. Try to not make any major changes during that year, like selling your home and moving. If after a year you still feel like you just can’t move forward, you may want to connect with a counselor. Some people jump into life without that person and then find out 6 months to a year later that they have not completed the grief work. Year two becomes much more difficult than the first year. If after several months, you find you are still unable to function at work, or even at home, you may want to seek counseling. It is important at this point to rule out depression, which with treatment, is very manageable.
The main message is to take care of yourself and allow yourself to be the unique and special person you are, grieving in a way that works for you.