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Accept Your Emotions

Death brings so many reactions in widely contrasting combination. These emotions are a natural response to the death of a loved one. Allow yourself to feel these normal emotions so that you can go through the grief and go on with life.

In the beginning, you may be in shock. You are bewildered, literally stunned. "I feel like a spectator in a play. But the drama is about me and the person I loved." You may feel numb all over, almost paralyzed in a world of unreality.

You don't want to believe it. "It's a bad dream. When I wake up, I'll find it really didn't happen." Denial is when you secretly think or pretend your loved one will return and life will go on as before. It is so strange. You feel as if the death has not really occurred, even though you know it has. Many people need time before they can face the harsh truth. It is so hard to realize that in your lifetime you will never see or touch your loved one again.

Panic may set in. "What will happen to me? I'll never make it alone?" You feel like you are losing control, panicking over things you used to do with confidence. You are falling and your loved one is not there to hold you.

Emotional suffering often brings physical distress. Inside your chest you may feel a sharp pain as if a jagged rock is pressed against your ribs. You collapse in bed but cannot sleep the long and torturous nights. Food may have little taste for you. You eat only because you think you should. Or else, you just cannot stop eating. Your stomach may be tied in knots. Your back may be hurting. The pain is not imagined. It is real. Your body is feeling your emotional loss.

Many people become angry when a loved one dies. Hostility is one of the most difficult emotions to handle. Some of us are taught as children that anger is a wrong feeling. We tend to hold it inside at a very early age. But feelings of rage do not magically go away.

Expressing your anger helps you to release your anguish and your frustrations. A life that is so precious to you has been taken away and there is nothing you can do about it. Resentment is a normal part of the grief process.

You may feel guilty, angry with yourself. You keep asking yourself: "If only I had spent more time with my beloved, if only I had been more understanding, if only I had called the doctor sooner, if only I had done this, if only I had done that..."

You have enough pain. You don't solve problems with if only. The past is over. Blaming yourself will not bring your loved one back to life. Guilt may result in depression. You may feel alone, naked, unprotected. There could be a sickening feeling of going down, down, down. You may feel overwhelmed and drained. Give yourself time, time to be hurt, grieve, to cry, to scream, to "be crazy."

Grief is a process. Your loved one has died. Death is a robber. And part of you has died.

Express Your Feelings:

The mourning period is a time to share your feelings. An emotion that is denied expression is not destroyed. You only prolong the agony and delay the grief process. Find a good listener, a friend who will understand that your many feelings are normal reactions to your bitter grief.

Allow the Entire Family to Share in the Grief Process:

All members of the family should participate if possible in the funeral arrangements. The presence of the casket at the funeral service makes the experience more real. Thereby, denial is gradually transformed into an acceptance of reality. The public funeral gives the community an opportunity to offer the strength of friendship and support, and to share their grief. Yes, your loved one has died. But family and friends still remain. You need not walk the lonely road alone.

Help and Self-Help Groups:

Working through the loss of a loved one is a complex and disturbing task. Even well-intentioned friends are not always adequate. They are not trained in this field and may themselves be emotionally involved with the loss. Seeking help or advice from a professional counselor is not an admission of weakness. It is a demonstration of your determination to help yourself during this critical period of adjustment. You may also seek comfort from organizations formed and run by people who have suffered similar bereavement. They will understand your fears and frustrations. They have been there before. Grief shared is grief diminished.