Het leven is net als de getijden van de zee.
Soms komt het op ons af,
soms neemt het stukjes van ons mee…
Nieuw leven komt…
En er is leven dat ons verlaat.
Tussen blijdschap en verdriet
moet je elke dag beseffen
hoe bijzonder en uitdagend het leven is.
Het geeft en neemt elke dag weer…
Zolang je bestaat.
Phases of the grieving process
As described in my previous blog, it is very difficult to let go of a loved one. For the one, the loss of a loved one is harder than for the other. Some people grief for longer or do it in a completely different way. Kubler Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist who is known for her pioneering work and her groundbreaking book ‘On Death and Dying‘, has mapped out the various stages of mourning. The first phase consists of shock and disbelief. In this phase someone has to accept the loss rationally and emotionally by being confronted with reality. Then there is a phase of longing and searching. In this phase it is important to allow and experience the emotional pain. The third phase focuses on working through the loss. People often do this by making adjustments to their own lives. The final phase is to complete the processing of the loss by picking up the thread.
What do you encounter?
It is important to first see in which part of the grieving process you are stuck. It is possible that you get stuck in the first two phases; both rationally and emotionally acknowledging that the loss has taken place. Being stuck in this part of the grieving process can indicate that you have avoided grieving. Perhaps out of fear of being overwhelmed by pain and/ or emotions. In this case, it is important to find out what exactly you are avoiding. Are they thoughts or memories, specific places or objects, music, or certain people?
When it comes to avoiding things, such as thoughts, challenge yourself to do exposure. By doing exposure exercises you gradually allow what you previously avoided; the reality of the loss of a loved one. It will not be easy to be so intensely involved with the loss, but in the end you will notice that you are more in control over your thoughts, feelings and memories. For processing the loss, it is important that you allow your feelings and thoughts and that you make place for them. Avoidance increases the intensity of your emotions, and by expressing them, they will ultimately decrease. You can do this by asking yourself the following questions and telling them in detail or writing them down.
- How did the days before the death go?
- How did I figured out?
- What happened afterwards?
- How did I feel then?
- What do I miss most now that he or she is dead?
Go back to the last memory you have with the deceased. Close your eyes and visualize it. Allow your body to feel the feeling that the memory gives you and that this will never happen again. Sometimes it can help to get things or photos to get to the emotions. Music related to certain memories together or from the funeral can also help. It is good to visualize your future. How are things going to be without this person in 5, 10 and 15 years? Do this for half an hour. In this way you have enough time to experience the intense emotions and to sit it out. After that you continue your day. In the beginning it will be difficult, but you will notice that the intensity of emotions, if you allow them, will decrease over time.
Write a letter
It can be helpful to write a letter to your beloved. In this letter write about what you will miss the most for example. Work on this for a week, maximum of half an hour a day.
If you notice that the emotional response is diminishing, you can gradually reduce these types of exercises and think about the extent to which you want to deal with the loss in your life. You can choose, for example, to commemorate him or her every two weeks or just to honor it at certain times (birthdays, death of that person). Try to visualize your future. What would help you to live your life again?
It is also possible that you are not avoiding the loss of a loved one, but that you are constantly preoccupied and dealing with the loss. This way you avoid letting go. Curious about avoiding and letting go? Read the next blog in the mourning series.