On Grief: 5 Things only the Newly Bereaved Understand

There is so much information available on grief. So many opinions, ideas, and tips for coping. It can be overwhelming for the griever and especially for those with a very recent loss.

on grief

I have been surprised recently just how many newly bereaved are reaching out, looking for help, joining our site, and looking for more direction on grief and how to cope. And when I say “newly bereaved” I mean, really new…some people with a loss that happened only a few days before.

While it’s encouraging that people are recognizing so early the need for support, I find this is such a strange and confusing time for the griever. Grief is already such a very foreign journey to take and those with a new loss have barely had their passports stamped before they’re expected to be fluent in the culture and language of loss.

Whether you are the newly bereaved trying to make your way, or a loved one trying to help, on grief I think most people with a recent loss would say the following…

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Caring for Children After Loss

Some people are always caring for others, in one way or another. And for most parents, grandparents, and caregivers, there is no greater joy than taking care of those we love. But this (like so many other things) can change after loss, and this seems especially true for those caring for children.

Caring

I had a woman tell me recently that she was struggling to parent her toddler following the loss of her spouse. She was afraid that she had been crying too much, that she was scattered, preoccupied…that she just wasn’t herself.

Now it’s easy for me to validate this experience and tell her that of course she is struggling, how could she not be? But it wouldn’t necessarily help guide her in what direction to take next, and let’s face it – of all the things we don’t want to “mess up” after loss, parenting (or even grandparenting) may be the most important.

A lot of articles that talk about children and grief focus on what the kids’ needs are, and of course those are very important (click here for more resources on kids and grief). But I’m a firm believer that for kids to be okay, they need the adults in their life to guide them. So how to guide and care for a child when you’re grieving and barely able to get by? Some ideas and thoughts below:

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Shattered Expectations: Why Grief is So Hard, Part II

Expectations.

ExpectationsA few years back I wrote about “Secondary Losses” as a way to explain why grief is so hard, and why it lasts so long. The question every griever seems to ask themselves at one point or another is, why am I still struggling? Besides missing a person who was loved and lost, and besides all those things we have lost along with them, when we have adjusted a bit and maybe even adapted a bit, why is it still SO hard?

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The Language of Grief

The Language of Grief: Changing the Way We Talk and Think About Loss

Grief

Words matter. What we say, how we say it, and who we say it to matters, because those around us can be greatly impacted by the language we use and the words we choose to communicate with.

It’s what we teach our children at the very earliest stages of their development and something that is reinforced for years to come, as we go through school, manage our personal relationships and develop our professional lives.

What we don’t often get taught, and something that doesn’t get the same amount of time or attention, are the words we choose when speaking to ourselves and what words thread the fabric of our thoughts as we weave them.

Perhaps it’s because the words that go through our head don’t feel thought out at all. Like a stream of consciousness, most of what we think is automatic and becomes the background noise of our day-to-day lives.

This is bad news for most of us. Because for most people, and for the griever especially, so much of what’s going on in our heads is negative. Worry, anger, sadness, second-guessing, self doubt…

I’ve learned many things in working with those who have lost a loved one, but something that stands out is this: grief has its own language.

There are words, and especially phrases, so commonly used by those who are grieving…and while they are not unique to those who have had a loss, the meaning behind them is special and needs to be paid attention to.

When speaking to grievers about moving forward after the loss of a loved one (a goal most bereaved, in one way or another, share) I most often hear the following:

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No Time to Grieve: Can we be too busy for grief?

GrieveThese days everyone is busy. Ask anyone you haven’t seen in awhile how they’ve been and they’re likely to answer, “busy!”. This won’t be a surprise to most, but something that I didn’t expect in the midst of our very busy lives is how many newly bereaved people I’ve met who are (or think they are) just too busy to grieve.

Let’s face it, for some, taking the time to grieve and find support may feel like a luxury or indulgence. It may even go so far as to feel like self-indulgence, or extravagance. With life moving so fast and so many other things to do, and in most cases, so many other people to take care of, does every mourner truly have the chance, or give themselves the chance and time they need to grieve?

The reasons someone may not allow themselves time to grieve are varied and numerous- and they may not always be what you’d think:

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Abusing Alcohol After Loss

Abusing Alcohol After Loss: How Self-Medicating Hinders Healing

Abusing AlcoholIn the very early days of loss, many grievers will describe feeling as if they’re in a constant fog or haze. A fog so thick that it can bundle several weeks or months into one big blur. And as terrible as that may sound, the lifting of this fog can create a stark reality so blinding it can be almost impossible to bear. It’s the reason so many grievers will describe their grief as getting worse as time passes. While we expect time to be a healer, those who have had a loss will usually find they are struggling more as the weeks and months go by.

The timing is misaligned in every way. Just as the support is slowing down,  as friends and family are checking in less and expecting the griever to be doing better, the weight, reality, and magnitude of loss is just starting to sink in.

It’s about this time when a griever begins to wonder what now and what comes next. Who am I and where do I go from here?

Deciding to self medicate isn’t usually a “decision” at all. For many it’s something that just sort of happens. A glass of wine after dinner, a drink out with a friend. The softening of the hard edges of grief, the numbness…for some it may just be too hard to resist.

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How Grief Changes Us: Forever & For Now

Grief is change. It changes our life, our routine, our plan and right along with it, grief changes us.  Change is hard under the best of circumstances (new job, a wedding, a baby), but the changes we don’t ask for can be intolerable. Some of these changes will be forever and long lasting, but some will only be part of the acute and early stages of grieving (whatever that timeline looks like for you). And some of these changes aren’t necessarily all bad.Changes

Losing a loved one is just about the worst thing that can happen to any of us. But the feeling of losing ourselves can make a tough time even harder to cope. Because if we don’t feel like ourselves, what strengths and skills can we possibly draw upon?

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Loss Of A Loved One: A Personal Account

The Loss Of A Loved One~contributing article by Charlotte Underwood, Mental Health Advocate & Freelance Writer

Loss

Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a loved one and the grief that surrounds you.

When you lose a loved one, you have to learn to live a life without them in it, but how can you when all you’ve ever known is to have them by your side?

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Food as Fuel for Self Care and Healing

FoodThere’s something very special about food, especially when we examine the relationship we each have with it. For some, food is simply a way to fill a physical void, to rid ourselves of the unpleasant sensation of hunger. For others, food may fill an emotional emptiness, a way to escape mental and emotional pain.

And then there’s those who find themselves in the midst of a great loss, not feeling it matters too much one way or the other. With so many distractions filling the griever’s head, it’s possible this very basic need isn’t given too much thought at all.

Changes in diet or eating habits can be very common in grief, though the exact reasons for that seem to vary from one person to another, and the role food can play as a source of healing should not be overlooked:

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Feeling Lost After Loss

“I’m feeling so lost…”

Lost

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s how universal the experience of grief is. As unique a journey as each griever travels, there are still so many commonalities that connect the bereaved to one another, and nowhere is this more evident then right within the forums of www.griefincommon.com.

Occasionally it seems that a particular theme pops up (the blog “What to Do If You Don’t Know What To Do After Loss” was born from this) and the importance of this just can’t be ignored.

Recently I’ve noticed how often a griever has started their story with, “I’m feeling so lost”. I would guess just about every griever has said this at one point or another. But I couldn’t help but wonder, what does it really mean? And does it mean the same thing to each person?

Merriam-Webster lists 9 meanings for the word “lost” and all of them seem to apply, in one way or another, to the griever:

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