What to expect in the early days of Grief
The first weeks and months after a loss, whether it be a loss due to a death, a divorce, a job, a pet, or anything that causes you to feel the pain of grief is a time in life that feels unbearable and that you may feel you will never be able to get through.
You will likely feel that life has lost all meaning and will never be the same again, and it won’t. You are just starting a journey like no other while you stumble along a painful path to finding a new “normal.”
During the first several weeks you may have a robust support system, those who will be there and offer help as you manage through the initial loss, but after time their lives go on while yours does not. I remember the days, weeks, and months of walking through life as if in a dreamlike state where the world was passing by, and everyone was laughing and enjoying life, but mine was at a standstill in the grips of grief. I felt confused and even disoriented at times, life for me had stopped, and it was difficult to summon the energy to do the simplest tasks. I found it hard to reconcile my thoughts and emotions with reality and memories. The wracking tears, the empty feeling inside along with no desire to do anything was overwhelming. I did not realize it then that what I was feeling is not unusual.
Physically I felt exhausted while reeling from the shock of my loss; my mind was in a haze with systems of decreased appetite, lack of energy, and interrupted sleep. You may feel these or others emotional and physical symptoms such as anger, fear, anxiety, irritability, and some are prone to sickness due to the physical and emotional strain on your mind and body. Knowing what you may experience and learning how to process your physical and emotional needs can help you be better equipped to get through the early days of grief.
Learn to be patient with yourself; you are suffering the pain of profound loss and have not yet had time to begin to heal. Remember that the intense pain you now feel will slowly fade to a gentle sadness, and eventually towards acceptance to that will again allow room for joy to enter your life once again.
Beware of survivor’s guilt. Irrational guilt causes added stress to an already stressful time, learn to ignore these; it is not your fault.
Do not focus on the future but just on getting through the next fifteen minutes at a time or you will get overwhelmed more than you already are.
Grief can be all-consuming and impact every part of you. Be aware of systems like physical shortness of breath, pressure in your chest and weakness, lack of appetite, and interrupted sleep are also symptoms. Your mental concentration will most likely to be impacted, so be careful about making any major decisions at this time.
Emotions will be affected with deep sadness; I remember the days where I did not think I could manage through the flood of wracking sobs, but I learned to lean into it. Grief has a mind of its own, but I allowed myself to cry until I could not cry anymore. It was gutwrenching, but I also felt a sense of release. Don’t try to fight it; it is all part of the healing process.
Be on guard for feelings of anger, especially when people say things to you like “they are in a better place” or “ time will heal all wounds” you will have to learn to ignore and keep your emotions in check. It is not many people who fully understand what you are going through right now, be prepared to overlook and ignore and remember their heart is in the right place, but they may not know the right thing to say.
As you start to realize the impact of your loss, you need to be aware of feelings of despair. Grief only feels and seems unbearable, but as I can testify to, you can endure it, and eventually, you will find joy again. Be cautious of despair turning to depression, seek professional help if you start to feel the signs of depression. It is recommended to schedule an appointment with your Primary Care Physician, your mind and body are going through severe stress and getting a check-up will ensure there is nothing else going on that need to be addressed.
You will ask the question “Why” many times, for me, I had to turn to my faith. I did not understand and still do not, but I knew I needed God more now, and I had to stand firm in my faith. I believe that God was with me in my suffering. I knew it would not take my pain way, but I also felt God would bring me through it and make it bearable. I clung to a few verses that I would read Psalm 30:5b “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” and Mathew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” It was not always easy, but in time, it brought me closer to God, and eventually, my purpose in life, to help others suffering through grief.
Simplify your life as much as possible, put off things you do not need to have done, and allow others to help you. Do not feel you have to keep the same pace as you did before your loss; right now, your body also needs time to heal. Consider making a list of things that need to get done and focus only on those. Put off anything that does not need to be done and ask others to help you, allow them to make dinners, clean your house, run errands, and do chores for you. Not only will that give you rest, but for those who are helping you, it can make them feel like they are making a difference in helping you during your time of grief.
Everyone grieves differently; there is no right or wrong way to grief, hold on to your memories, and tell people you want to talk about your loss.
Here are some small actions you can use to help you on your journey towards healing.
Take care of yourself:
- Take breaks from work or daily chores to nap or relax. Make yourself a cup of tea or read a book or take a calming bath.
- Take a walk outside or do yoga or if you need to release some anger, try kick-boxing. Any form of exercise increases endorphins and helps lift your mood
- I remember not wanting to eat, but it is necessary to keep your strength up. Let others cook for you or order a meal-kit. You may want to eat smaller meals during the day to keep your blood sugar up. Try to focus on high protein and low carbohydrates and sugar. If you do not feel like eating, have a protein drink, and keep some almonds or protein bars with you in case you are out and get hungry.
- Keep caffeine to a minimum and avoid an increase in alcohol. Drink a lot of water; when you cry a lot, it dehydrates your body, so try to drink eight glasses a day and keep a water bottle with you for easy access.
- It’s easy to forget things when you are grieving, make a task list, and only include chores that need to be done, set your alarm, so you do not forget essential appointments.
- Focus on what you need to do and do not overwhelm yourself with things that can wait. You are doing the best you can, so be easy on yourself and let the process unfold.
- I found writing my feelings to be a way to release and to pour out my feelings, a habit I continue with today. Start a journal where you can write what you are feeling and how your life is changing.
- Even in the season of grief, there is something you can be grateful for, what can you give thanks for today? Did support come from an unexpected place? Did someone say something that encouraged you? Consider writing at least one thing each day that you can be grateful for. I remember my first entry was the birds chirping outside my window in the morning. Though you may find this difficult, gratitude is healing.
Pray and share your feelings:
- Prayer is part of my life, and letting God know my feelings and asking for comfort helped me get through difficult days.
- Talk to someone whom you can share with and who will sit and listen to what you are going through is a great outlet.
- Permit yourself to laugh at something laughter helps to put your mind and emotions in a better place. I know this is hard to do, but the release of laughter is beneficial to your mindset.
Keep in mind that no matter how difficult things are right now, remember healing does come. Focus on the small things, be open to your feelings, take care of you, and peace will come in time.
Love and Peace,