Navigating Grief

Contrary to popular belief, there are no set stages for grieving the loss of a loved one. If you’ve heard a lot about the stages of grief, this may surprise you. The stages people refer to, known as the Kϋbler-Ross Model, were actually developed to address what terminally ill patients go through when facing their own mortality — a very different grief than what we face when we lose a loved one.

The truth is that grief doesn’t fit into neat stages because every person is unique. That said, there is some commonality. Many people do experience the feelings of anger, denial and depression described in the Kϋbler-Ross Model, but they also experience other emotions such as guilt and disbelief. Most do eventually move on to acceptance, although some struggle with grief for a long time. If you’ve lost a loved one, there’s often a wide range of emotions, some of them unexpected and none of them wrong.

What’s true for everyone is that grief is something you can’t go around but must pass through. When it happens to you, you may wonder how you can possibly get through it. Fortunately, there are some universally helpful methods for navigating this unfamiliar territory.

  • Surround yourself with supportive people. You may have very strong familial bonds or an extremely supportive network of friends. If your community steps up to be there for you, accept their help with gratitude. Sometimes, though, it can be helpful to join a support group. Interacting with people who are living through a very similar experience can help you find ways to handle your grief that you may not have found on your own.
  • Accept that your process will be unique, while also realizing that well-meaning people may think they know exactly how you feel. Accept their help if you can, knowing that they’re making an effort. Think of meaningful ways that people can actually help you, such as providing a meal or helping you sort a closet so that you’ll have a ready answer when someone asks.
  • Be patient. Grief can last longer than you might expect. Some cultures have a set mourning period, but there’s really no time limit. For many people, it takes years. Don’t let anyone tell you how you “should” be progressing, but allow yourself to grieve on your own timetable. If it doesn’t feel like you’re making any progress, and the grief still feels overwhelming after substantial time has passed, consider speaking to a counselor.
  • Take care of yourself. Maintain your routines, eat well, get enough sleep and be as tender with yourself as you’d be with someone else in pain. Take time to be alone if you need to, cry if you need to and take a break from grieving if you need to. You are the best judge of what you’re feeling and what you need to be doing.
  • Make time and space for remembering. Don’t be in a rush to get past your grief. Your loved one was important to you and lived a life worth remembering. Start a memory journal, go through old photos, light a candle, create a memorial shrine — whatever you want to do to honor your loved one’s memory. Having an end-of-life celebration or memorial service can also be a valuable part of the healing process.

At Chapel of the Chimes Oakland, we care about the families we serve and the community of which we’ve been a part for more than a century. We know that part of working through grief is creating a life-honoring memorial, and we are experts in helping people find ways to celebrate the unique life their loved ones have lived. Stop by to meet our caring and compassionate team and learn about all we have to offer, or call (510) 379-5200 today.

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