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The Mourning Process

There are stages of grieving which are part of the natural response to a traffic death or dehabilitating injury of a loved one. These stages are similar to the feelings experienced by a victim/survivor of a traumatic incident. These stages are marked by feelings which may seem confusing or even "crazy" both to the grieving person(s) and to those around them. There is no absolute time limit for any of the stages. The duration of each stage can be affected by individual situations and circumstances. Grief and/or loss is so painful that sometimes efforts are made to deny or push the feelings out of mind. Grieving "work" involves allowing both fond and tragic memories to come to mind, experiencing and sorting out the grief (loss) from the rage (helplessness), and eventually replacing the helpless rage with some type of positive action for the future. Does grieving ever end? There is a basis of reality in the expressions, "It will take time" and "Time heals all wounds". The pain of grief does lessen or change with time, the open wound heals, and the person is changed by the experience. For those victim's and their loved ones who must face and cope with permanent disfiguration disability, or loss of prior levels of mental and/or physical ability, it may seem as though the "open wound" or "pain" will never heal and, in fact, becomes all consuming and controlling of their future. It is for these victims that an understanding of the grieving/loss process is vitally important. To understand these feelings and their effect on the dynamics of the victim's relationship with others, is to gain control over the process, rather than to be controlled and even destroyed by it. Reaching out for help from both friends and professionals is critically important and often the most difficult for these victims. The stages of grieving are most often described as a cycle including Feelings and Behaviours.

SHOCK AND NUMBNESS: (High level during first 2 weeks)
Feelings may include: disbelief, denial, anger, guilt.

Behaviours may include: crying, searching, sighing, physical symptoms, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, muscle weakness, limited concentration, inability to make decisions, emotional outburst(s), impeded functioning.

SEARCHING AND YEARNING: (High level from 2 weeks to 4 months)
Feelings may include: despair,apathy, depression, anger, guilt, hopelessness, self-doubt, very sensitive to stimuli.

Behaviours may include: restlessness, impatience, poor memory and lack of concentration, social isolation, crying, anger, loss of energy, testing what is real.

Comments: In crisis, we become open to a wider spectrum of stimuli in our environment. We are susceptible to over-reading stimuli. We need to talk things out in order to refocus our interpretations. We cannot get through the mourning process alone. It is important to reach out during the first four months when motivation is high.

DISORIENTATION (Peaks at 4-7 months)
Feelings may include: depression, guilt, disorganization, feeling that grieving is a disease.

Behaviours may include: low compliance with orders of physician, resistance to reaching out or sharing with others, urge to try to live as if nothing has happened, restlessness, irritability.

Comments: It is at this stage that an awareness of reality and it's consequences is very high. A weight loss or gain of more than 10 pounds may occur. The victim must beware of trying to live as if nothing has happened or giving into the urge to flee the setting in which the loss occurred, for these are temporary solutions to a permanent situation.

REORGANIZATION (Takes 18-24 months to stabilize after major change)
Feelings may include: sense of release, no longer obsessed by loss, renewed hope and optimism.

Behaviours may include: renewed energy, stable sleeping and eating habits, relief from physical symptoms, better judgment making, increased interest in goals for the future.

Comments: All four phases peak on anniversary days or your "significant" days. We mourn loss, both through death and major joyous changes (graduation, wedding, new job). Depression is nature's way of getting you to simmer down. There is general agreement among the experts on acute post-loss grief that these phases are not discrete and sequential. They do not follow each other in any prescribed order. They tend, rather, to overlap and to proceed in a jagged pattern of a forward thrust, then retreat to an earlier phase, then a forward movement again. No two people will react alike, and the same person will not react in the same way to every loss. However, each phase must be experienced to a peak of intensity before it can be resolved. Normal grief is healthy and should, under favorable environmental conditions, lead not only to recovery, but also to growth and healthy change.

NOTE: I cannot take credit for this article. If this is your research, please e-mail me and I will be happy to give credit where credit is due or have it removed immediately of you so wish.


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