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AFTER How to Move Beyond a Loss Taylor Hill WHS SCCP TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction……………………………………………Page 1 What is Grief?.............................................Page 3 Step 1: Shock and Denial…………………….…..Page 5 Step 2: Pain and Guilt……………………………..Page 7 Step 3: Anger and Bargaining……………..…..Page 8 Step 4: Depression and Loneliness……..…Page 10 Step 5: Acceptance………………………..……..Page 12 How is Grief in Children Different?..........Page 13 How Can Children Grieve?.......................Page 15 Harmful Ways a Child Grieves…………….…Page 16 INTRODUCTION Listen,there is no right or wrong way to deal with the loss of a loved one. You can expect grieving to be rough, and it’s different for every single individual out there. It’s not just a matter of coping with a loss, it’s about coping with a drastic change in life. That, my friends, takes a lot of time. I can tell you firsthand how defeated and uncertain of the world you become after someone you care so much about passes away. My mother was my best friend. I always thought she would be there to see me graduate college, get married and have kids. That all changed on March 29, 2003. After two years of being in constant, agonizing pain, my mom succumbed to breast cancer. I became distant to the rest of the world; while not even wondering what really happened. It took many tears, but as time passed I started to feel whole and began lived life to the fullest once again. My story goes to show that, with the right support system, overcoming the death of a loved one is possible. 1 I wrote this eBook to try and help shed light on a pretty difficult question. How do you cope with the loss of a loved one? How do you live your life in the wake of a life – altering event? No one has all the answers, and honestly, there isn’t a universal way to grieve. However, if you still need a step in the right direction on how to begin your path to healing or what emotions you might experience, I have some advice to share. The most important thing you need to remember is that grief is a long process, not a task you can complete in just a few weeks or even months. You might have heard the theory of breaking up the healing process into the five stages of grief. Let’s now talk through each stage of grief and try to have a better understanding of what feelings to prepare for after the loss of a loved one. 2 WHAT IS GRIEF? Grief can be considered a necessary evil. Unfortunately, every person will experience it. It could be the death of a family member or a friend. Some people will be able to go from stage to stage in quick succession. However, there will be some individuals that get caught up in one particular stage. Having an understanding of the stages of grief could assist you in coping with the loss of a loved one in the future. It doesn’t matter if what you’re experiencing slightly differs from the exact five stages of grief, it will give you an overall guide to the whole grieving process. It is comforting to know that others have gone through and came out the other side, and so will you with some time. It gives you hope. 3 Each stage of grief has a purpose. While traversing through each one, your goal is to overcome the emotional obstacles in that stage then move on to the next. The overall goal is to progress from stage to stage until you can accept your loss and can move on with your life. The five stages I will go over are just guidelines of what you might fell and are not set in stone. I hope that this eBook will help you move through the pain of your loss and I also hope that what you learn and experience will make you stronger. Eventually, you could use this newfound knowledge to help someone else overcome a loss. 1: Shock and Denial 2: Pain and Guilt 3: Anger and Bargaining 4: Depression and Loneliness 5: Acceptance 4 STEP 1: SHOCK and DENIAL Let’s now talk about the first of five stages of grief, shock and denial. When someone has a terrible loss, disbelief and denial will flood your mind. It’s quite certain you will react with a shaken, “That didn’t happen,” kind of feeling. Your mind tries to protect you by denying the reality. It is possible that a numb feeling will overtake your body. This is nature’s way of having a built-in emotional defense mechanism that is designed to shield you from the initial emotional impact of a loss. It attempts this by only letting you deal with the emotions you are able to handle. Although it is true that denial is a beneficial stage of grief, at some point, you need to face reality. Unfortunately, reality, in this case, means a wide variety of emotions with peaks a troughs alike. 5 There is no concrete number of weeks or months you should be in denial. Some people might be able to go straight into a latter stage. However, in the event that the loss never truly registers, you should get some real help. This assistance can be from a friend or another family member. It is important to remember that saying goodbye is a part of life. Your love for them and the memories you shared will never change. It is necessary to go through denial to reach acceptance. Only then can life genuinely move forward. 6 STEP 2: PAIN and GUILT The second stage is pain and Guilt. After you move past the stage of denial, the pain of the loss will hit you at full speed. The people who try and dull the pain could possibly turn to drugs or alcohol. The crazy thing is that pain has as much of an ability to heal as it does to hurt. Another common emotion felt during this stage is guilt. The guilt felt could be from just surviving the loved one or even not getting a chance to say goodbye. This is most definitely true if it was someone younger and you ask “Why not me, they had so much to live for?”. You could also feel guilty for not having the chance to say goodbye if the death was sudden such as a car accident or heart attack. The seemingly unending sorrow felt during the second stage could be debilitating especially if you have a very sensitive personality. Even though it’s true that the feeling of guilt will subside the longer you think logically, a small amount might remain throughout the entire process of healing. 7 STEP 3: ANGER and BARGAINING The third stage, anger and bargaining, is a very important part of the process. After the second stage, the pent up anger you possess looks for a way to escape in the form of anger. This might be directed towards surgeons who just couldn’t do anymore to help, against family members who you felt were not present enough, or even against God by asking “How could this happen to such a nice person?” Anger is a perfectly natural and healthy part of the process. When life feels absolutely out of control, anger gives the reigns back to you. We’ve been conditioned since our childhood to hold back on our anger and that it isn’t healthy; however, in certain cases, it could be exactly what is needed. Just remember not to push your anger towards the people you still have left. They are most likely still grieving themselves. It would be devastating to alienate them too. The arrival time for the stages of grief can vary from person to person. For example, anger can coincide with grief and vice versa. 8 Bargaining is a key part of the grieving process. You might try to make a deal with God to save someone who is terminally ill.An example of this would be to promise to be a kinder person in the world if only your loved one miraculously got better. If you yourself have a terminal illness, bargaining can give you sense of control in times of hopelessness. Consistent with the other stages of grief, the time spent in anger and bargaining can vary. Uncontrolled anger can put your closest relationships in jeopardy and lead to more problems altogether. 9 STEP 4: DEPRESSION and LONELINESS The emotions in the first stages can be exhausting, however they symbolize hope. Eventually, hope fades and you are left with this heartbreaking reality, they are really gone. You are left there feeling alone. Understandably, this can be difficult to hear. You might fell like life has no purpose as depression begins to set in. In fact, f you don’t feel depressed, you aren’t truly facing the loss. The people surrounding you might have questions about why you look so defeated. You may also hear the term “Snap out of it!.” At times, a blank stare might cover your face while you briefly forget where you are. Medications may be offered, as well as advice and assistance from friends and counselors. Everyone tries their hardest to help you see the light again. Eventually you’ll see life goes on and depression will finally fade away. Pain will remain but it will not be accompanied by hopelessness anymore. 10 However, in the wake of depression, hopelessness could increases and the thought of suicide could rear its ugly head. If this happens, seek help immediately. Those who suffer from clinical depression cannot overcome it by themselves. Guidance needs to come from those closest or professional help such as therapists or even doctors. A sign they need to look out for is increasingly worsening depression that doesn’t improve. The length of time you could be in depression is determined by the enormity of your loss and the support system you have available to you. Whether it be with help or on your own, you need to find the spirit to continue to live your life to the fullest. Don’t forget that healing a wound of this magnitude take a whole lot of time. 11 STEP 5: ACCEPTANCE Finally,the last step to this process is acceptance. This is the goal you gave yourself at the beginning of stage one. Acceptance is the outcome of going through all stages of grief. It’s a slow and painful set of emotions and does not come in one particular moment. It is the form pain will take in your new life. Just because you accept the death doesn’t mean you don’t care anymore, it means that the death is a part of you now and you can move forward. It marks the beginning of your new life. A life that celebrates and commemorates the person you lost. There is still a chance that even after decades have passed, a certain moment may bring you back to the depths of despair. They will be far and few between, but you will be strong enough to deal with them when they arise. Another time that grief may return is during the holidays. You might reminisce about certain memories with your loved ones during Christmas or another holiday. Going through the process of healing the first time will prepare you for these aftershocks of grief later on down the road. Even though it will probably the most difficult thing you've ever done, you will move past your sorrow and begin to live life again. 12 HOW IS GRIEF IN CHILDREN DIFFERENT? When it comes to the grieving of young children, the process can be much more complicated and devastating. If a child is not attended to during their first days of their terrible loss, it is possible they could carry scars of trauma for the rest of their lives, which means early intervention is paramount. Adults are often so numb with grief after a loved one dies that they fail to realize the child in the family is left to cope with this on their own. When a child loses a loved one, especially a parent or sibling, their world falls apart. They become full of questions and are plagued with confusion and guilt. They desperately need your help. For very small children who are used to watching cartoons where characters get squished, imploded, and cut in half just to magically be fine in the next scene, death is not real. The important thing is to be there to answer all the questions that fill their mind and give them honest answers. Let them know that death is a real part of life and they need to understand that as a fact. 13 Children go through a variation of the same five stages of grief that an adults do. However, some of the stages can last a very long time and, if children don’t receive the help they need, they can have profound effects on their future. Most children believe that it is somehow their fault that their family member has died. If only I was better, or if I did my homework mommy would still be alive. These reasons that can flow through a child’s mind may seem irrational and silly to us, but to a child they appear perfectly logical. Therefore, it is imperative that adults ensure children that it is in no way their fault that the loved one has died. Children also tend to grieve in spurts much like adults. One moment they can be filled with sorrow and despair, and the next they are back to their former selves frolicking about. This is completely normal. Don’t for a second think that he or she is out of it and over the loss. Just like adults, the grieving process for children takes time. 14 Thereare a plethora of ways for children to express their emotions. One of the most beneficial things you can do is to give your child outlets for their grief. Allow them to be creative with drawings, crayons and Play-Doh. Older children might like to make a scrapbook of their departed loved one or create a memorial. These are all healthy ways for a child to express their feelings and could offer you some insight into how they are truly feeling if they are unable to adequately express their feelings in words. It is also natural for many children to regress to an earlier point in their childhood if they lose a parent. They may start talking like babies, have temper tantrums, wet the bed, or want constant cuddling and carrying. They do this to feel like they are going back to a time that their parent was still here. This is fine for a short time, but if they don’t snap out of it eventually, you may need to seek more professional help. HOW CAN CHILDREN GRIEVE? 15 I t is also important to know that there are also unhealthy ways children can grieve that could lead to them harming themselves. It is very difficult to locate the fine line between what a normal way for a child to grieve is and when you should look for help. The best sign that grief is overwhelming is if they exhibit a prolonged lack of appetite, lack of energy, or sudden introverted behavior. If those symptoms persist, you may want to see a child therapist. A child physiatrist can also just help you with guidance and advice on how to handle certain situations with your child. At times, it is important for children to communicate with a specialized professional. Most children are resilient and they will bounce back if they continue to have a good loving support system that you provide. This might mean it is necessary for you to put your grief aside and be there for your child, but you might find the questions children ask and the way they talk about the person both of you lost might be very healing for you too. HARMFUL WAYS a CHILD GRIEVES 16 F IN CHILDREN DIFFERENT? When it comes to the grieving of young children, the process can be much more complicated and devastating. If a child is not attended to during their first days of their terrible loss, it is possible they could carry scars of trauma for the rest of their lives, which means early intervention is paramount. Adults are often so numb with grief after a loved one dies that they fail to realize the child in the family is left to cope with this on their own. When a child loses a loved one, especially a parent or sibling, their world falls apart. They become full of questions and are plagued with confusion and guilt. They desperately need your help. For very small children who are used to watching cartoons where characters get squished, imploded, and cut in half just to magically be fine in the next scene, death is not real. The important thing is to be there to answer all the questions that fill their mind and give them honest answers. Let them know that death is a real part of life and they need to understand that as a fact. 13 Children go through a variation of the same five stages of grief that an adults do. However, some of the stages can last a very long time and, if children don’t receive the help they need, they can have profound effects on their future. Most children believe that it is somehow their fault that their family member has died. If only I was better, or if I did my homework mommy would still be alive. These reasons that can flow through a child’s mind may seem irrational and silly to us, but to a child they appear perfectly logical. T