The “Mourning” After

The “Mourning” After

As the dictionary defines and explains it, mourning is the expression of deep sorrow for someone who has died. As a therapist, I visit with many patients who are mourning, and yes of course most often it is due to a death of a loved one but keep in mind that other times people mourn for common life changes such as an ending to a relationship, ending to an employment, a breakup, moving out, or immigration.

I of course, like everyone else believe that grief is a negative feeling that has developed from a bitter experience or loss, but what I also believe is that it doesn’t have to end with negative outcomes such as depression, anxiety, feeling of isolation, and or hopelessness. The death of your loved one or an ending to a relationship should and can inspire you to evaluate your own feelings of mortality, you purpose in life, your future decisions, and your strengths.

I myself have experienced grief several times in my life. Some that I remember is when my grandfather passed away when I was six, when I immigrated to the United States and left everything behind, when my grandmother passed away, and most recently, when a very dear friend moved overseas. I don’t think there is a single person who hasn’t experienced grief and I think the universality and commonality of it is what helps us accept it.

How long should we mourn?

What I often tell my patients is: “Remember, grieving is a personal process that has no time limit, nor one “right” way to do it. There isn’t a right or a wrong way to mourn and the last thing we need when we are going through grief is to have to follow a set of guidelines to what’s acceptable and normal and what is not.

Coping with loss is an ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.

One thing that can help the grief process is being aware of what’s happening and what we are feeling. How can we stay aware when we are our weakest?

By knowing the stages of grief!

I’m sure you all have heard of the stages of grief at some point which are anger, denial, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.

Denial and Isolation being one of the stages, not necessary the first one is one’s reaction to learning of terminal illness, death of a cherished loved one, or an upcoming major change in life is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

Anger being another stage is often the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. Anger may be directed at our dying or deceased loved one. Rationally, we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us angrier.

Bargaining is the normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control–

If only we had sought medical attention sooner…
If only we got a second opinion from another doctor…
If only we had tried to be a better person toward them…
If we had acted differently…

Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality.

Depression is the most common stage of grief. Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.

Acceptance is the stage we hope to end up at. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.

If you are experiencing grief, here are some tips that I think can be helpful:

Turn to friends and family members – Now is the time to lean on the people who care about you, even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Draw loved ones close, rather than avoiding them, and accept the assistance that’s offered. Oftentimes, people want to help but don’t know how, so tell them what you need—whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or help with funeral arrangements.

Draw comfort from your faith – If you follow a religious tradition, embrace the comfort its mourning rituals can provide. Spiritual activities that are meaningful to you—such as praying, meditating, or going to church—can offer solace. If you’re questioning your faith in the wake of the loss, talk to a clergy member or others in your religious community.

Join a support group – Grief can feel very lonely, even when you have loved ones around. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. To find a bereavement support group in your area, contact local hospitals, hospices, funeral homes, and counseling centers.

Talk to a therapist or grief counselor – If your grief feels like too much to bear, call a mental health professional with experience in grief counseling. An experienced therapist can help you work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to your grieving.

 

Tannaz Moein M.S, LPC-I

 

Growing Green-Psychology
I, Tannaz Moein M.S., am a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern (LPC-I) supervised by Dr. Dean Aslinia. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Arts of Psychology from University of Texas at Dallas, Master’s degree in Science of Counseling at Southern Methodist University, and am currrently working toward my Doctor of Psychology degree from Southern California University. I work with children, adolescents, adults, couples, families, and the elderly population. I have also gained advanced training in substance dependency, adolescence counseling, and crisis intervention. As an Adlerian counselor, I believe people are holistic, phenomenological, creative, teleological, and social. In counseling, I pay close attention to the importance of the complete system of individuals. I believe in experiences, consciousness, and that people are creative and can shape their own personality and have the freedom to affect their destiny.

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7 Comments

  1. Thom Slade
    April 09, 20:14 Reply
    Thank you Tannaz. Your article was really good. Its a tough subject but one we are all touched by. Thom
  2. cjs8
    April 15, 02:52 Reply
    People grieve in different ways. We lost our mum at an early age. I’ve gone through the stages as expected. I could say I went “by the book” when coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. However, my brothers and sisters had their own coping mechanisms. Some in the form of destructive behavior, others in their quiet ways. It changed all of us, but not always for the better.
  3. janice2
    April 26, 08:18 Reply
    Mourning and grief can be so hard to control. I think feeling all these stages are completely natural, but when people don't try to get help they can certainly spiral out of control. I think the world needs to do a lot more to offer people help with their grief as suicide seems more rampant than ever.
  4. Jen
    May 04, 16:31 Reply
    I appreciate your perspective on mourning, and not just because you're a professional, but because you're approaching it from a very human standpoint. It's so true that grieving is a personal process and different for everyone.
  5. Kathryn
    September 10, 00:13 Reply
    About an hour ago, I read an article written on this subject. It was by a therapist who deals with women who's spouse has committed adultery. In the article he said that women will cycle back and forth between each stage of grief at least a dozen times, and there is no set order or timeline to it. We may get stuck on a stage for a long time, & seem to pass over others, but we visit each stage multiple times. I believe this and it was refreshing to hear a man acknowledge this about women. We tend to hold on to our feelings much longer than men as a general rule, and in the article he was explaining to the men who had cheated that they couldn't place their wives on a timeline, but that they had to let her move through the process at her pace. It is the same for me after my divorce, too. As he moves on & is planning to remarry within 4 months of our divorce, I find the old feelings of rejection and inadequacy resurfacing, reopening the chasm of grief I've worked to process and get through. It was good to see that others need time to deal with it all as well.
  6. Cait
    September 16, 09:31 Reply
    Excellent perspective and advice! It really is important to know the stages of grief and be able to recognize which stage you are in at the time. Your tips are right on target. I especially think it's important to lean on your friends and family during the mourning period. Isolation just breeds more misery in my opinion!
  7. Kendall O
    March 05, 00:27 Reply
    These are some really good tips. I think the most important one is turning to friends and family, and that is something that should be taken into consideration if you know someone who is in mourning too. People can’t always reach out when they need it most.

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