Lessons in Grieving
During the first 30 days of grieving the loss of a loved one, you will experience your own version of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Though this may be one of the most difficult times in your life, acknowledging your feelings and relying on support can help you face this journey and get through it, moment by moment and day by day.
Dealing with the Fog of Grieving
The death of a loved one is one of life’s biggest stressors: According to a stress scale created in 1967 by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, the death of a spouse ranks as the most stressful life event that one can experience, with the death of a close family member not far behind.
Whether the death of a loved one was sudden or expected, you may feel like you're in a fog of grieving, unable to function cognitively or remember simple things. This is a common emotional response that helps you cope with the trauma of your loss.
“In the first 30 days, people are mostly in shock—their whole world has just crashed down,” says Jane Bissler, Ph.D., a licensed professional clinical counselor and certified fellow in thanatology (the study of death and grief) in Kent, OH. “At first, people think they’re losing their minds.”
The longer your loved one was in your life, the longer this shock may last. Seniors who have lost their spouses after decades of marriage may experience that shock for quite a while. “They expect their loved one to walk through the door or call, or they might set a place for them at the table,” Bissler explains. “This is a completely normal reaction to the shock our minds are experiencing.”
For the more youthful, that shock can look a bit different. Lisa Iannucci was a 33-year-old mother of three when her husband Jeff passed away unexpectedly from stage IV Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Lisa’s world was turned upside down. Everything she thought about her life—being married, raising the children and growing old with her husband—was gone. “Nobody ever made us feel as though his surviving would be a problem,” she remembers. “So although he was sick, it still was such a shock when it happened.” Lisa moved robotically through her first 30 days of grieving, unaware and unattached to the world around her.
“You must give yourself permission to grieve,” says Ashley Davis Prend, psychotherapist and author of Transcending Loss: Understanding the Lifelong Impact of Grief and How to Make It Meaningful. The best thing you can do to get through this fog is to accept it; face it.