Grief is defined in Wikipedia as a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed.
We have all experienced the loss of a loved one and we all grieve in a different manner. There is no proper way to grieve.
My spouse Judy and I have shared our grief, losing a father, mother and daughter in a two-year period of time in the mid-1990s.
My mother and father died five months apart and both were 84 at the time. Each lived a long, fulfilled life.
Our daughter Tammi was only 22 when she died of a liver disease following a second transplant at the University of Minnesota Hospitals.
Most of us have grown up with grief and have learned our ways of grieving from our parents, or from others in our family.
Loss of a grandparent is usually one of the first tough losses we experience.
We are then under the premise that our elders always die before us. That doesn’t always happen.
This column will examine some ways to handle grief and will look at some programs that may be available to us.
Judy and I are currently active in the Lakes Area Grief Support Coalition which has sponsored six-week grief support sessions called Growing Through Loss at churches in the Forest Lake and surrounding area.
Judy and I have been part of a facilitator team at sessions held at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church of Lindstrom, Faith Lutheran Church of Forest Lake, Hosanna Lutheran Church of Forest Lake, Crossroads Evangelical Church in Forest Lake and St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Forest Lake.
The spring 2012 Growing Through Loss sessions started this week and are held on Monday nights.
This spring’s sessions are being held at Faith Lutheran Church, 886 North Shore Dr., Forest Lake.
Beth Lawrence is the director of the GTL programs and can be reached for questions by telephoning her at 651-464-3395.
Here’s the rest of the schedule for this spring:
• April 16 — Compassionate Friends panel, loss of child
• April 23 – Paul Johnson, MA, is the supervisor of bereavement services for HealthPartners Hospice & Palliative Care in Bloomington, MN
• April 30 – Beth Faulhaber, loss of spouse
• May 7 – Rev. Phil Peterson, Faith Lutheran Church, loss of spouse
• May 14 – Denise Dietz , suicide
Judy and I were first introduced to a grief support program through our local funeral home.
We went to several sessions after our daughter Tammi had died.
The sessions allowed those in attendance to share their grief and to share ways of dealing with that grief.
It was through good friends Doug and Sandie Swenson, whose son was killed by a drunk driver, that we were introduced to Compassionate Friends, an organized grief support program that is designed for those who have lost children.
For more information on Compassionate Friends, go to http://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx
First, let’s go back to Wikipedia and look steps in the grieving process.
Grief has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions.
While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to loss.
What is grief?
Grief is a natural response to loss.
It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away.
Grief is also a reaction to any loss.
The grief associated with death is familiar to most of us, but we grieve a wide variety of losses throughout our lives.
When understanding the different kinds of loss it can help us to think about loss in two different categories, first being physical or symbolic.
Physical loss is more easily recognizable because it means that it is tangible and it is something that you can touch, losing your spouse through death.
Other types of loss are abstract and cannot be touched – they are aspects of a person’s social interactions.
Other examples of loss include:
• A relationship breakup
• Loss of health
• Losing a job
• Loss of financial stability
• Traumatic experiences
Wikipedia says the grieving process is different for every person but can be understood in four different steps.
Shock and denial
Shock is the initial reaction to loss. Shock is the person’s emotional protection from being too suddenly overwhelmed by the loss.
The person may not yet be willing or able to believe what his mind knows to be true. This stage normally lasts two to three months.
Intense concern is often shown by not being able to think of anything else.
Even during daily tasks, thoughts of the loss keep coming to mind.
Conversations with one at this stage always turn to the loss as well.
This period may last six months to a year.
Despair and depression
Despair and depression is a long period of grief and the most painful and protracted stage for the griever.
But during which the person gradually comes to terms with the reality of the loss.
The process typically involves a wide range of feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Many behaviors may be irrational.
Depression can include feelings of anger, guilt, sadness and anxiety.
The goal of grieving is not the elimination of all the pain or the memories of the loss.
In this stage, one shows a new interest in daily activities and begins to function normally on a day to day basis.
The goal is to reorganize one’s life so that the loss is one important part of life rather than the center of one’s life.
Editor’s note: Howard Lestrud is ECM online managing editor.