Why not me?
Loss of a friend or family member shakes our sense of well-being. Our initial disbelief that such a tragedy can occur transforms first to anger and then survivor’s guilt. The Aurora, Colorado movie theatre shooting sharpens our perception of mortality.
Let’s explore the grieving process. Losing a friend or family member is one of the most distressing events in life. Bereavement transports us through a dark tunnel of sorrow, numbness, and guilt.
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross describes the six stages of grief as denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
*Denial leads to isolation and withdrawal from social contacts.
*We become angry at someone or something perceived as the perpetrator of death, even if there may have been nothing to prevent it.
*The griever might “bargain with God” to reverse the loss.
*Depression and sadness follow.
*We accept the loss when anger and sadness fade.
However, not everyone moves through these five stages, and the stages might not be chronological.
“Complex grief” is more intricate. It is characterized by:
*Intense longing for the deceased.
*Difficulty accepting death, with prolonged sorrow and bitterness.
*Withdrawal from social activities, lack of trust, irritability, and agitation.
People with complex grief might not recover from their symptoms. If so, social interaction and job performance suffers.
There is, however, encouraging news. Psychotherapy helps with adjustment to loss, redefining life goals, coping skills, and reduction of blame and guilt. Prescription anti-depressants improve mood, sleep, energy, concentration, and appetite.
Stay connected with friends, coworkers, and relatives. Support groups provide sharing, comfort, and new relationships.
Limit solitary activities at the TV or computer. Minimize exposure to the news if an event is broadcast 24/7. Take up a sport or new hobby.
Don’t forget that exercise relieves stress and anxiety. Stay connected with friends, coworkers, and relatives. Support groups provide experience sharing, comfort, and new relationships.
If you are out of touch with spiritual practices and beliefs that were once meaningful to you, get connected with a church or synagogue. Those with religious support survive tragedy psychologically more intact.
Take care of your health, and get a physical if it has been a while.
A useful website is “The Grief Recovery Institute Guidance Center”:
"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal". From an Irish headstone.