No one is ever prepared to lose a loved one. Whether it was expected or not, it still comes accompanied by shock. Even though we know rationally that death is inescapable we always hope that it won’t or won’t yet happen.
Even though grief is an experience that feels like you are going crazy, there are a range of reactions and responses that are normal. Some of the possible reactions may be on the emotional, physical, cognitive, behavioral and spiritual level. ‘Normal’ does however not mean that they are in any way easy to experience.
In the following article we will look at the behavioral and spiritual reactions.
Behavioral reactions may include
- Taking medication to sleep or sleeping all the time
- Loss of or change in appetite
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs and/or other prescription drugs to ease the pain
- Unpredictable and uncontrollable weeping, crying
- Reckless or uncontrollable actions
- Keeping an altar
- Carrying special objects
- Keeping belongings intact, keeping your children’s bedroom, clothes and toys
- Looking at photos
- Avoidance of memories that would arouse grief
- Changes in daily routine
Not all of the behaviors mentioned are healthy and some may need to be changed. They are understandable in the immediate time after the loss and do not indicate “insanity”. If they continue over time, professional help is recommended.
Spiritual reactions may include
- Searching for meaning in loss
- Changes in spiritual beliefs, feeling, or behaviors
- Experiencing a sense of your child’s presence
- Searching for a way to live without your child or baby
- Questioning God (or your personal religion) “How can God allow this?”
- Wondering whether you see your child again when you die
Whether a strong religious faith will be helpful or a hindrance in your recovery from grief depends on what you believe and how your beliefs are practiced. Like any other tool, religion can be used in a healthy, appropriate way or it can be abused in unhealthy inappropriate ways.
Neither religion nor spiritual beliefs can give us immunity from loss or give us back our loved ones. In my view there is also no benefit in believing that losing someone has anything to do with punishment or karma but this is obviously your choice.
If you are supporting a bereaved person neither impose your beliefs on them nor try to ease their pain with unhelpful spiritual clichés like: “Your child was so special that God called her to be with Him.
It is your free choice as a bereaved person to say and believe these statements yourself. If you hear them from others but do not believe them, let them know that these comments are unhelpful for you. Be reminded not to impose your spiritual and religious beliefs onto others, no matter how beneficial you find them or how strongly you believe them.