What to do when grief hits, and how to work through
1. More people are living alone
2. Grief comes in many forms of loss
3. Recognizing Grief Symptoms – physical and emotional
4. Time Frame for Grief
Home Alone with Grief
The New York Times (2012) reported that 50% of 311 Million in the US are living alone, whereas in 1950 only 22% of American adults lived alone according to sociology professor Eric Klinenberg in his new book Going Solo. This is a huge trend and reports that half the residences in Manhattan are one person dwellings. Globally there are some 277 million people living along. According to his research those who chose the single life are far happier and do find their “own tribe”.
This is an interesting statement for many reports proclaim differently. However, he doesn’t give an age range of those singletons he interviewed. Living alone while you are employed and socializing with your colleagues I can see that this would be true. However, for those unemployed, retired even, where do they find their social connections?
According to a recent article in the Daily Mail, one third of Britain’s live alone. People living alone are more susceptible to depression. It seems living the solo lifestyle could also cause poor mental health. “We know loneliness is a major factor in depression” states Consultant Dr. Adrian Winbow, at Fitzroy Square Hospital in London.
Having supportive people around to talk to when you are grieving is so important to help you when inevitable loss does hit.
Grief can be experienced not only from a death, but through job loss, divorce, death of a pet, or a relationship breakup. Kenneth J. Doka, PhD calls these disenfranchised grief because these losses are unacknowledged by Society. Often those grieving from any one of these disenfranchised losses are made to feel guilty. Others often feel uncomfortable around them and so distance themselves. They become “invisible mourners” (Rosaldo, 1989).
Death is normal and inevitable however, our modern society in its discomfort around death has distanced itself. Once the family would deal with the many aspect of a death but today this has become very clinical and invisible. This leaves many today unfamiliar as they have not had the opportunity to participate in death related experiences.
Given these statistics it is important for those living alone and dealing with grief from some loss to recognize the symptoms.
Common symptoms of grief are:
Shock and disbelief – this is the body’s defense mechanism to protect the mind, while numbing the body. This numbing helps you to process only what your minds believes you can handle. It may be difficult to accept right now what has happened. It is normal that you may be in denial, just know this is the bodies way of protecting. It is common to expect that the person will show up even though you know the person has died.
Sadness – is an emotion you will feel when something or someone you value has been taken away. It is normal to feel such a tremendous sadness. You may experience a deep despair, such as yearning or even such loneliness. It is also normal to feel that you are emotional and cry easily.
Guilt – can be experienced as an uncomfortable feeling that comes about when you think or feel that you have done something wrong. It is possible that you will feel guilty for not doing enough or even may believe you could have prevented the death. Guilt can also be experienced when you feel relieved that a person has died after a lengthy illness
Anger – can arise when someone you love is taken away. It is normal to want to blame others and hit out as your anger arises. It is the doctors or nurses fault. It is also possible that you will be angry at yourself for the person leaving you, you may even feel abandoned and this thought causes you to feel anger.
Fear – arises as a worry or even panic when you think about how you may cope without the person. You may even become anxious or feel helpless are you now faced with many more responsibilities. With a death you may expect it to trigger fears of our own immortality.
Physical symptoms – such as fatigue, nausea, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains , a lowered immune system experiences more colds or illness in general or insomnia. These can all be experienced during the grieving process.
It is so important to find support after a loss so as to have someone accompany you in your grief. Choosing a few close friend or family members that you can turn to will help you not to feel so alone at this time. Many will turn to find comfort in their faith. They may join a support group, talk to a therapist or grief counselor or coach. This is a time to take care of yourself. For many the grief symptoms will start to recede between 1-3 months. Certainly 6 month to a year you will be returning to your new life without the person. By year two you are functioning well and are able to speak about your loved one without the tears. This is when you will feel joy in your heart when you talk about them. However, there seems to be no real time frame for the grief process. It is such an individual process, for some they can feel better in weeks or months, For others, the grieving process is measured in years. If after 6 months you are still experiencing grief symptoms that just won’t improve. It is time to seek medical advice. Too often a person can slip into a depression. It is important however to believe that you will recover from your grief and take action to work towards that.