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GRIEF, MOURNING AND BEREAVEMENT

Posted Jan 21 2013 12:00am

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             January 2013
By Support Group Facilitator, Marilyn Fisher
“The loss of a loved person is one of the most intensely painful experiences any human being can suffer, and not only is it painful to experience, but also painful to witness, if only because we were so impotent to help”.  - John Bowlby

When we lose a loved one, the terms grief, mourning, and bereavement are used as if they are interchangeable, but they refer to different aspects of our loss.
GRIEF:  refers to social, physical, and psychological, and emotional reactions to the loss of your loved one.  It: can affect your health and produce bodily symptoms such as gastrointestinal disturbances, lack of energy and motivation, heart palpitations, nervousness, restlessness, shortness of breath, sleep disturbances, and changes in appetite; is experienced through your feelings, thoughts, and attitudes; is based upon your perception of the loss; is a natural and expected reaction to loss; continues over time, and involves many changes over time; and varies in intensity. In our society, we are uncomfortable with grief and negative emotions.  When we speak to those who are grieving we often don’t know what to say and so fall back on platitudes that then become Myths of Grief.  How many of these myths have you heard? it only takes a couple of months to get over grieving; grief is the same no matter who you lose; children grieve the same way adults do; it’s Christmas, you should not think about your loved one now; you must be brave and keep a stiff upper lip; life goes on; if you avoid the pain, your grief will work itself out. These are only a few of the many myths of grief.  In grief you will develop your own list.
MOURNING:  is the process by which we work through a loss to allow healing to take place.  It is like a roadmap to healing, marked by the public ways in which we express our internal experience of grief.  Some examples of mourning are:
talking to others about our loss; journaling and writing letters to our loved one; joining support groups; making a scrapbook of memories; talking to the person we have lost; dreaming about our loved one; expressing ourselves creatively through art, music, poetry, etc; visiting the gravesite; exercising; wearing a token such as an item of clothing, a cap, a piece of jewelry; becoming active in a cause related to our loss; having a funeral; flying flags at half-mast; talking to a therapist. Through mourning we come to: accept the loss; feel the pain and are now able to express it without  judgement; adjust to our new reality without the deceased; and lastly, re-establish and re-invest in emotional ties. BEREAVEMENT:   is the state of being deprived of a loved one through death.  A person is bereaved for as long as they are in the process of mourning that loss. In bereavement, we experience:
    Numbness -  impact of this is often delayed; Loneliness - equals numbness.  It occurs when all things related to the actual death such as banking, lawyer (Will), thank you cards, etc. are done, people that were there to help, have now returned to their lives, and you are alone with your thoughts; Emptiness - equals loneliness.  It is often physical and emotional.  Emptiness subsides and re-entry begins; and Adjustment - you may find a new identity or others may become resigned and starting looking for a new partner. 
When we are bereaved, experience grief, and engage in mourning it is important to remember:
You are not “going crazy”; Be gentle with yourself and look after your health; Be patient with yourself; Take the time you need to grief.  Give yourself permission to feel your loss and to grieve over it; Share your feelings whatever those feelings may be with someone you feel comfortable with and with someone who will listen;  Try not to isolate yourself; Take your time and do not rush into making any huge changes in your life; and lastly, ·          You will get through this difficult time and hopefully when you do, your tears will be replaced by smiles of your loved one.  ·            Community Home Support-Lanark County has Bereavement Programs to support you through your time of grieving.  Please call  613-267-6400 extension 28  or e-mail  rebeccab@chslc.ca  for more information.
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