For the person grieving:
No matter how you look at it, grief is challenging. It looks different depending on who you are and why you are grieving. Your grief is important no matter who or what you are losing - a parent, a child, a friend, or a dog. Grief can even be felt because you lost someone in another way, such as through divorce, not specifically through death. These are all significantly different, but the loss is all very real and lonely to the person grieving. While it can be a natural part of life, sometimes it isn't natural at all; and no matter how much you prepare for it, you will never feel ready when it comes.
Despite your support network at the time, you can still feel alone, even if you aren't. You can also feel confused, angry, frustrated, worried, scared, sad, guilty, or relieved. You can feel physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, stomach aches, difficulty concentrating... That is the most challenging part of it all - there is no manual for exactly what to expect and how to deal with grief. There is no right or wrong. You can feel okay one minute, and quite possibly a "hot mess" the next. You can be angry for days, and then guilty for feeling a relief that your loved one is no longer suffering. This is one very good reason why your support network can struggle with giving you what you need at times, or why you don't feel like you're getting what you need. You may not know what to expect, and neither do they.
For some people it can take a few days and for others weeks, months, years. There is no right set amount of time you need. And despite that phrase, "Time heals everything", I have to be honest... you are never going to "be okay" with your loss. It will always hurt because you lost someone you cared for very deeply. Do I think time makes the feelings less intense and easier to handle? Absolutely. But you will not forget your loved one or how much you cared for them. Those are your memories and feelings. No one can take those from you. Unfortunately, the pain is yours too. And while that is a little more difficult to feel, that pain is there because you loved someone so much and you miss them.
Here are some things that can help you along the way.
Give yourself permission to feel. Don't judge it - just feel it. It's okay to feel what you are feeling.
Give yourself the time you need. Do not rush anything. If you want to go back to work because you are ready, then go back to work. But if you only want to go back to work because you just need a distraction and you don't want to feel anymore - give yourself a distraction that is a little easier and forgiving like going for coffee with some friends or watching your favorite movie.
This is specifically for those struggling with the loss of someone through death - When you are ready, do something to celebrate them. Make their favorite food, make a photo album of your time with them, write them a letter... whatever you feel is going to be appropriate. We may not get to make new memories, but we can definitely remember the ones we have and keep those alive in our memories.
If you are finding that things are too much to handle on your own, please ask for support. I've listed a few resources below.
The Center for Living with Dying: 408-243-0222
Hospice of the Valley: 408-559-5600
Look for part two of this blog next month: For those supporting the grieving.