Grieving is a process with no shortcuts

Losing someone or something you love or deeply care about is very painful. You may feel this pain and sadness is something that will never go away. This is a normal reaction and one of the first stages to experiencing loss.

I believe grief is normally applied to the death of a loved one and overlooked at other loss situations that one experiences such as divorce, loss of satisfying job, undetermined extent of an illness, retirement, fire loss and others. Anyone can experience grief and loss, but each of us is unique as to how we will cope with our feelings.

With the death, due to cancer, of our daughter at 42, married with husband and daughter, my wife and I each go through our down times after some two years since her passing. Our support group has been very helpful as we have the privilege to speak openly about her and our emotional feelings concerning her absence.

Speak your loved one’s name out loud and encourage others to mention that person’s name and the good remembrances they had with him or her.

In 1969 psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross detailed the five steps of grief as follows:

Denial, numbness and shock: This stage is to protect the individual from experiencing the intensity of the loss, in the beginning days of that loss. Numbness is a normal reaction and should not be confused with not caring. As one slowly acknowledges the impact of the loss, denial and disbelief will diminish.

Bargaining: This stage may involve much thought about what could have been done to prevent the loss. If this stage is not carefully resolved, intense feelings of remorse or guilt may sideline a person.

Depression: This stage happens to some people after they fully realize the extent of their loss. This may include loss of sleep, change of appetite, lack of energy and concentration, and crying spells. One may feel loneliness, emptiness, isolation and self-pity. At times you may feel even lonelier in a room full of people.

Anger: When one feels helpless and powerless, this is a normal reaction. One can feel this emotion from feeling abandoned through the loss of a loved one.

Acceptance: In time one may be able to come to terms with many different feelings and situations and accept the fact that the loss has occurred. Healing begins once the loss becomes merged into the individual’s set of life experiences.

Throughout a person’s lifetime, he or she may return to some of these stages of grief. There is not a time limit to the grieving process, and each individual needs to define his or her own healing process.

Factors that may slow the process of healing are as follows:

Consuming oneself in work or activities.

Abusing drugs, alcohol or other Band-Aids.

Uncontrolled behavior that has not been part of one’s lifestyle in the past.

Avoiding the emotions one feels.

Not respecting one’s feelings.

Things you can do to foster being restored to a more normal life:

Allow time for you to experience your thoughts and feelings for yourself.

Learn to express your thoughts and feelings openly and honestly to others or in a journal.

Trust that crying is a form of release and not at all uncommon with grief.

Find a trusted party to confide in about your loss who will listen to you and not try to resolve your current situation.

Acknowledge and accept both positive and negative feelings you will experience in this.

Find grief groups in your area that meet on a regular basis that have other people who have experienced similar losses as yourself.

If you continue to feel overwhelming negative feelings, seek professional help that is experienced.

Everyone grieves differently as it is a very personal and highly individual experience. Grieving takes time and cannot be rushed or sidelined. There is no normal time frame for this; it can take from several months to many years. Be patient with yourself and allow the process to take place in your life as naturally as possible. Remember the only way to work through your grieving is to go through your grieving; there are no shortcuts.

I have listed six Hancock County grief groups that meet on a regular basis below with contact information. If you have access to a computer, visit the following web site for many other sites out of county as well as updated information for those I have shown:

St. James Lutheran Church, 1741 S. State St., Greenfield; 498-2446; 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays

Brandywine Community Church, 1551 E. New Road, Greenfield; 408-7349; 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays

Zion Lutheran Church, 6513 W. County Road 300S, New Palestine; 861-4210; 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays

Outlook Christian Church, 6531 N. County Road 600W, McCordsville; 335-6815; 6:30 to 8 p.m. Mondays

Shirley Christian Church, 202 Meridian St., Shirley; 765-738-6365; 6:30 to 8 p.m. second Tuesday of month

Hancock Regional Hospital, 801 N. State St., Greenfield; 468-4124; 10 to 11 a.m. Fridays

Dean McFarland is a board member for the Central Indiana Council on Aging.