Grief and LossQUESTION: Grief and loss - Is there hope?ANSWER:
When we love someone, and they die, we receive a devastating blow. The grief and loss is tremendous, whether it be from losing a family member, friend, divorce, or even losing a favorite pet. All of us, at some time, have to confront the emotions that we carry when this type of sorrow comes into our lives.
Because we are human, we do not live our lives separate from others. We have attachments because we need and rely on each other. We are social creatures. The forces that draw us to others are entwined in our nature and we respond to these forces in powerful and involuntary ways. We feel the pressures when we are lonely and do not have companionship; when we feel ashamed and fear social disapproval, and especially, when we fall in love and long for the love of another person.
Since we are not solitary creatures, we pay the price for our attachments because we are vulnerable so we risk loss. Since our dependence on people is part of our human make-up, they occupy a special place in our hearts; they are like a part of ourselves and cannot be replaced. Therefore, if something happens to that person or animal in our lives, the natural process for our minds to heal is called grief. Through this, we gradually accept the loss. We allow the dead to be gone from our lives. Yet, there is hope, for at the end of the mourning, there is still sadness, but it is a wistful sadness that connects to happy memories that we will always possess.
There are different areas of grief. I will list some of them here:
- Cumulative Grief -This results when a person suffers several losses or several deaths close together. This makes it impossible for the individual to recover from one loss quickly because another happens. It also occurs when there is not ahealthy recovery from a first loss. Therefore, a subsequent death years later can reopen the first wound. Recovery from the subsequent death can be extremely torturous and cannot take place until the first loss is healed.
- Anticipatory Grief -This is experienced by the family of a person who is dying of a terminal disease as well as by the person him/herself. They both go through the stages of grief prior to the death in anticipation of the death. It may not end the grieving, because the family, especially the one who provided most of the care, may now have to adjust to the absence of this person to care for even though the death was anticipated.
- Death of a marriage relationship -This, of course, is due to divorce and involves the loss of the emotional and physical support system even though both individuals as well as any children, continue to live and may have a relationship associated with alimony, child support, child custody, and visitation. This kind oftentimes involves its own kind of grief recovery.
The feelings that are normally experienced in grief and loss are sorrow, emotional pain, depression, loneliness, isolation, devastation, confusion, anger at God, anger at oneself and/or the deceased, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, a sense of being lost, and a sense that things are out of control.
The feelings we experience, are normal reactions to any loss of someone dear to us, but there is definite hope for the one who is mourning. There are grief recovery groups and seminars to help people through their grief. In other countries, large families live together so they help each other by telling stories and crying together. In our society, we used to give people 30 days to grieve. Today, the immediate family is frequently separated by many miles so jobs and schooling demand permanent physical separation and the period of grief may take longer. There is little family support except for the few days centered around the funeral.
The apostle Paul shares with us in 2 Thessalonians 4:13, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." Paul did not tell us NOT to grieve, but to HOLD onto hope.