Archive for January 5th, 2012
Q. I lost my brother several months ago, and there are days when I still feel overpowered by sadness. Is it normal to grieve this long?
A. I’m sorry to learn of your loss. The brief answer to your question is that everyone grieves differently. Rarely does grief have a clear beginning, middle, and end, like hiking up a mountain and back down along a defined trail. And popular culture promotes the misconception that there is an orderly progression of emotions that will lead to “closure.” This is also probably wrong for most people.
The truth is that grief doesn’t neatly conclude at the six-month or one-year mark. Depending on the strength of the bond that was broken, grief can be lifelong. Parents whose children die often say they never get over the loss. The loss of a spouse is also devastating. But the loss of other loved ones, including a sibling, can take a long time to get over as well.
Although it may persist, grief does usually soften and change over time. How this goes will be influenced by your emotional style, the nature of your support system, and the culture you are a part of.
The loss of a sibling is not talked or written about as much as other losses, but it has a unique quality. Siblings share an upbringing and history. The more integral someone was to your life, the more opportunities there are for happy and sad reminders that underscore the massive loss. Alongside warm or warring memories, you may always feel the absence. Sadness, abandonment, disorientation, and even anger may arise around birthdays, weddings, the anniversary of the death, and holidays or other occasions you might have shared. A familiar scent, song, or likeness can trigger feelings of grief, too. All of this is entirely normal. And siblings are contemporaries, part of your generation, which may raise concerns about your own mortality.
Usually the raw, all-consuming shock of early grief will ebb slowly within weeks or months. Gradually, at their own pace, most people do find themselves adjusting to the loss and slipping back into the routines of daily life.
So give yourself time. In the midst of loss, many people find opportunities for growth. In many cases, people emerge from the depths of their grief with greater confidence in their ability to manage life’s sorrows and difficulties.
Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and events that would otherwise be joyful can be especially hard on people who are grieving. If the grief is fresh, holiday cheer can seem like an affront. Celebrations may underscore how alone people feel. Likewise, it’s hard to accept that others may not mark the days that you do — the first time you met your loved one, a birthday, or the anniversary of an illness or death. The following strategies may help people ease pain around holidays and other difficult times.
Start a new tradition. People can remember the deceased on special occasions by placing a lighted candle on the table, leaving an empty chair, or saying a few words of remembrance. If the person who died always played a special role in festivities, another family member may be able to carry on the tradition.
Change the celebration. Sometimes people opt for a simpler celebration. They go out to dinner instead of planning an elaborate meal at home. Or they schedule a trip or an outing with family members or friends.
Ask for advice. It may help some people to talk to others who have lost people close to them to find out how they have managed holidays.
Express personal needs. People who are grieving may find it hard to participate in all the festivities or may need to let go of overwhelming or unsatisfying traditions. It’s all right to tell people you’re just not up to it right now or to change plans at the last minute. Don’t feel pressured to do more than you want to do. Leave an event when you wish to go.
Plan to mark the day. Others find it helpful to make special plans for an anniversary, birthday, or other special day. This can include walking through a nature preserve, visiting the cemetery or the place where ashes were scattered, or enjoying an activity the deceased would also have loved. Think of a ritual to help you connect. Light a candle and say a prayer. Release balloons. Carry a memento from your loved one.
Help someone else. It may also help to volunteer through a charitable or religious organization. Make a donation to a favorite cause in memory of the person who died.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )