One of the last things a grieving person wants or needs to hear is “you’re doing it wrong.” Be assured that you’re never going to hear this less-than-supportive line from the team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care: we’re all about compassion, understanding and knowing that everyone grieves and heals differently.
As a regional home health provider, we’ve spent time with many Dubuque residents at the end of their lives, along with their families. Our observations and experience have shown us that grief truly can hurt mentally and emotionally, and in some cases even physically, and there’s no right or wrong way to miss someone. It has also shown us that while every period of grief is distinct, there are some common processes involved.
For instance, many medical and non-medical personnel are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ research into the five stages of grief, who theorized that patients typically start their journey of grief with denial/isolation, followed by anger, then bargaining, then depression and finally acceptance.
However, further research has shown that this theory isn’t as linear or as predictable as many people think, or at least think it should be.First, the focus is really on the patient and what they’re going through, such as someone entering a hospice program trying to deal with significant changes in their lives. It’s less about the people around them, who likely will have different feelings since they have a different perspective.
First, the focus is really on the patient and what they’re going through, such as someone entering a hospice program trying to deal with significant changes in their lives. It’s less about the people around them, who likely will have different feelings since they have a different perspective.Also rather than a rigid flowchart, the five stages should be thought of more like a road map of where someone currently is on the continuum and what common emotions they could be feeling. It doesn’t have to be consecutive or
Also rather than a rigid flowchart, the five stages should be thought of more like a road map of where someone currently is on the continuum and what common emotions they could be feeling. It doesn’t have to be consecutive or have set time limits either – someone potentially could stay in one stage for months or years, while blitzing right through another one.
Conflict can take place when people are in different stages and one person may expect or encourage others around to get there as well. People may also feel all sorts of emotions if they’re not feeling what other people around them are feeling, everything from guilt to jealousy.
This may also evolve into anger and resentment at others for feeling differently, or worse, for pressuring someone into “moving on” to another stage because they may not be ready. (This can be anything from a fellow family member dealing with situations differently to an employer wondering when everything will be “back to normal.”)
Different views on remembering
Another area where people can feel all sorts of emotions, sometimes conflicting ones, is in the area of remembering.
Because our brains are wonderful at insulating us from any and all types of pain, we may sometimes find ourselves trying, sometimes, not to think too hard about the loss of a loved one, because if we do, we fear that we would be once again overwhelmed by sadness and related emotions.
While these feeling can ultimately be positive and help with the grieving process, it can still be difficult to deliberately want to jump back into the water of grief – if the pain is recent, it may be the equivalent of ripping off a scab or irritating a wound that feels like it’s just beginning to heal.
But sometimes we find we must or, actually find ourselves accidentally dragged into remembering. Perhaps we smell a certain aroma, hear a song, or recall a story or something else associated with the person we cared for and still miss, and all the memories are triggered again.
Conversations about that person can be a good and a bad outlet for memories. Sharing them can help us pass on anecdotes about the person’s life and keep their memory alive, especially for people who may not have known this person. But telling the story can also hurt.
Grieving support groups are often recommended for people dealing with loss. This lets them meet others in similar situations – everyone is different, but there can be value in being around others on similar journeys of healing.
Another way to think about the usefulness of remembering is on a larger level beyond your own brain/heart, and even your local community.
For instance, the tragic events of September 11, 2001, hurt us all in differing amounts. While those who lost loved ones that day may have different perspectives than people in Dubuque who watched the events on TV, we all still felt pain and loss while mourning the thousands killed that day, and also we continue to be reminded of it over the years.
In 2016, then-President Obama declared Sept. 9-11 to be official National Days of Prayer and Remembrance, to commemorate those that were lost 15 years earlier and reflect on the survivors who have continued to honor their memories. He requested that fellow Americans join him in taking a moment regularly to remember pain but also remember how the acts of terrorism had a role in uniting the country as a result of this shared loss.
If you’re overwhelmed with grief or even feeling conflicted about your feelings, whether recent or in the distant past, the staff at Above and Beyond Health Care understands and appreciates what you’re going through. We’re always happy to listen and connect you with community grief resources.