When dealing with the death
of a loved one, giving yourself
time to grieve can help your
Grief is a natural and expected reaction to loss. Even though death
and dying are inevitable parts of our lives, the difficult emotions and painful
experiences they evoke are not always openly discussed nor fully understood.
“It can feel very disorienting when it occurs, but grieving can help us heal
and find ways to have a continued connection with the deceased,” says Dr.
Ann Laverty, associate director of counselling at the University of Calgary’s
Wellness Centre, whose research area is grief and bereavement.
Shock and numbness often immediately follow a death, as can fear, denial,
anger, guilt, anxiety and sadness. While the common belief is that you move
through stages of grief in a linear way, this is a myth, says Rev. Bob Glasgow,
co-ordinator of Alberta Health Services’ Grief Support Program.
“We don’t grieve in an orderly fashion,” he says, “although the first step of
grieving is accepting the reality of the loss.” Dealing with a loved one’s finances, possessions and funeral services all force us to acknowledge that they are
no longer present. Laverty says healthy bereavement also starts with self-care,
which means exercising, getting fresh air and doing activities that comfort you.
“Be patient with yourself and others,” she says. “Give yourself time to do
things differently for a while, as grieving will take up time and space in your
life.” Rather than having a “forget and move-on” mentality, Glasgow says
reminiscing is the number one healing activity. Finding ways to have healthy
continued bonds with your deceased loved one — like cooking their favourite
foods or honouring them on special dates and holidays — can help you work
through your loss. — Lynda Sea