Am I Supposed to Feel This Way?

Sherry Williams White presents an overview of the physical and emotional reactions to grief. In addition to explaining what is normal in your grief journey, she shares ideas for coping and gaining a sense of control over what is happening to you by putting motion to your emotions.

by Sherry Williams White

Grieving the death of someone you love is overwhelming enough. But actually understanding your grief? Now that’s asking too much!

Surprisingly, you can understand your grief and be better off for it. Here’s a simple look at the basics of your journey through grief.

  • Grief has changed your life completely. You cannot go back to being who you were but you can learn to live fully as who you are now.
  • Grief is a natural, normal and necessary response to loss. It is your way of adjusting, physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and socially.
  • You may feel tired, unable to sleep or want to sleep most of the time.
  • You may feel hungry or you may not want to eat at all.
  • You might feel worried and excited at the same time. Maybe your heart is racing and you can’t catch your breath.
  • Do you feel empty and hollow inside? You might have trouble concentrating and remembering things.
  • It’s normal to feel deep emotions when you are grieving the death of someone you love. Sadness, anger, fear and guilt are common; don’t let them scare you, even if you experience several different emotions at the same time.
  • Are you confused by the swirl of emotions you’re experiencing? It’s okay. It will help you to talk with someone you trust about your feelings, or to write them down in a notebook.
  • Although many people will expect you to “get over” your grief in a few weeks, you want to be patient with yourself. You will never get over your loss, but you will get through it. Give yourself plenty of time to experience all the emotions associated with the loss.
  • Don’t be surprised or discouraged when grief shows up out of the blue. Just when you think you might be “over it,” you find yourself crying at the grocery store or in line at the bank. It’s normal and it’s okay.
  • You’re different now. This is a good time to establish new daily patterns that help you solidify your new identity. Rearrange the furniture to make a space just for you. Set a new time for daily walks. Write in a journal every day.
  • Remember that even though your loved one has died, the love you shared has not. Share conversations with your loved one in your heart. Tell lots of stories about him or her. Keep scrapbooks or photos out so others can remember, as well.
  • Reach out to the help others. 

Support groups are listed on this website and are available through your funeral director. Books, brochures, and videos aimed at helping you in your grief are available from New Leaf Resources at 1-800-346-3087.

The many thoughts and feelings you are having can seem overwhelming and confusing. When these feelings are bottled up, you might find yourself feeling even more out of control.

You may find that you lash out at others when you don’t mean to or that you explode at the simplest deviation from the normal. Your body and mind are almost like a steaming tea kettle or pressure cooker. These feelings and emotions also create an immense physical amount of pressure. All of these feelings need to be released so that you will not continue in the frustrating cycle of exploding, being upset by your explosion, building up pressure, and exploding again and again.

Here are some ways you can put some motion to your emotions.

  • Acknowledge how much your grief hurts. There is no denying it or ignoring it. Try to live through it, not avoid it. By acknowledging the pain of grief, you heal the hurting. How do you do this? Tell a friend what it feels l ike. Write it down in a note to yourself. Share what you are experiencing with a counselor or minister. Say it to yourself. Notice what hurts you. Don’t try to figure it out or make it make sense; just notice it.
  • Acknowledge your expectations of yourself and others. Make sure you understand what others expect of you and be equally clear in stating your own expectations. Don’t put added pressures on yourself by demanding more than you are able to do. For instance, acknowledge that you expect to be distracted and less efficient at work. Let others know that you intend to make time to walk every other day. Be clear that you may not host the next family festivity because you just don’t want to take on all that extra work right now. 
  • Find appropriate outlets for the energy that anger gives you. Pound a pillow, weed a garden, yell in the shower, hit golf balls. Lock yourself in your car and scream as loudly as you want to. Hit something soft, and hit it hard. Bang on a piano. Draw a wild picture. Throw things. Have a water fight with a friend.
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings. Don’t get uptight about keeping a journal; only keep a journal if you enjoy that. Otherwise, simply jot down your feelings. You don’t even have to use complete sentences if you don’t want to. If you make notes every day, it will encourage you to go back in several weeks and read them and see how far you have come.
  • Create a memory book. You might include special photographs, mementos, letters and bits and pieces of your loved one’s life that remind you of the joy you shared. Ask others to share their memories with you as well. In fact, ask someone to help you gather and organize these things; this kind of task might be overwhelming to you without someone’s help.

© 2005 New Leaf Resources; Crestwood, KY

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