By Tracy Lee
Special to the Sun
Grief is the natural pain one experiences upon the death of a loved one. It is not an invisible virus floating on puffs of air. It is not transmitted through droplet spray nor by touching contaminated surfaces. Grief is brought on when one is robbed permanently of the physical presence of a human being who has significantly participated in his/her life and who has deeply touched his/her soul.
Death is not the ultimate adversity. It takes from us of that which we desire most, the physical presence of our loved one; a person upon whom we rely, and someone with whom our life is intertwined.
The pain inflicted upon us at the death of this significant person is natural, excruciating (in some cases debilitating), and very real.
Upon significant loss, what does one draw upon for strength and recovery?
Some may turn to their primary care physician for medical assistance. This seems logical, however, grief is not a medical condition. This enormous fact thereby renders a physician of medical arts largely ineffective. A medical doctor will, in most circumstances, prescribe medicine to act upon his patient’s ailments. Medicine acts upon physiological ailments. Grief may cause physiological ailments, however, grief is the underlying cause, not the ailment itself. Therefore, medicine may act upon the ailments brought on by grief, however, the underlying cause of the ailments remains. If the underlying cause, grief, remains unresolved, the survivor will again realize recurring physiological ailments.
Some survivors may turn to a mental health practitioner. “An estimated twenty percent of survivors receiving mental health treatment suffer undiagnosed complicated grief. Research proves that treatment for depression is far less effective for grief recovery than grief therapy.” (Coping with Adult Grief, QCFH)
Normal grief brings on natural pain. “Sadness is the most common feeling experienced during grief.” Sadness is not depression.
Depression is not a normal part of grief; it is a complication that interferes with recovery and raises the risk of serious illness.
Depression can be distinguished by trained counselors by looking for specific emotional patterns.
“In normal grief, the sad thoughts and feelings typically occur in waves or bursts followed by periods of respite, as opposed to the persistent low mood and agony of major depressive disorder.” (Sidney Zisook, MD, University of CA, SD)
Survivors experiencing normal grief usually retain their self-esteem, sense of humor, and their capacity to be consoled or distracted from the pain.
Depression evokes internal struggles of guilt and worthlessness, as well as limiting one’s ability to experience or anticipate pleasure or joy.
Depression is dangerous and should be treated by a mental health physician. (Mourning Light III, 2019)
“Normal grief does not warrant the use of anti-depressants. Anti-depressants cannot treat the underlying cause of grief which is loss. Anti-depressants delay the mourning process and encourage complicated grief to materialize.” (Coping with Adult Grief, QCFH) Ten to fifteen percent of the world’s population suffer problematic loss adaptation and experience elusive recovery. With those odds, increasing your probability of joining that group by taking anti-depressants is not advisable.
Again, we see that treatment focused on the wrong diagnosis, one other than grief, does not yield the desired result of recovery.
By now, you may be wondering if there is any assistance at all for grief recovery. Fortunately, there is. The good news is that 85 percent of mourners do not require grief recovery assistance. Even though recovery is long-suffering, most mourners recover just fine on their own.
There are things that you can do to assist yourself as you embark on this journey and they are rather simple tasks. Before I list them, however, I want you to know this one very important fact. “The single most important factor in healing from loss is having the support of other people. Sharing your loss makes the burden of grief easier to carry.” (Coping with Adult Grief, QCFH) Human beings are naturally social creatures. Therefore, isolation renders us less effective and increases the negative aspects of whatever we are suffering.
Factors That Help Recovery
Allow yourself ample time to experience your innermost thoughts and feelings. Express your feelings openly or write them in your journal. Allow yourself time to cry. Crying provides stress relief. Confide in a trusted friend or person about your loss experience. Acknowledge and accept both positive and negative feelings. Find bereavement groups where others have had similar losses. Seek professional help if feelings become overwhelming. While these factors assist your recovery, there are things to watch out for too.
Factors That Hinder Recovery
Overworking oneself, abusing drugs, alcohol, or other substances. Compulsive behavior, avoiding emotions, and minimizing feelings.
While these two lists contain tried and true assistive methods for promoting grief healing, as well as warning signs to steer clear of, there will be additional things you can do to help yourself. These things will be particular to your life and personality. They are things that only you know exist. You must rely upon your intuition and call upon the things that you know will bring you comfort and peace. There may be tokens of affection, shared with your loved one, that bring you comfort, or words spoken between you that bring you solace.
Utilize every possible advantage that you have to overcome your sorrow with shameless vigor.
Grief is indeed the price we pay for loving others so deeply. Love is a priceless, spiritual gift, bestowed upon us from our great Creator.
Our physical existence is temporary, but love, like our souls, is eternal. Realizing this spiritual truth gives us hope of reuniting with our loved ones who have gone on before us. That day of reunion will be glorious and filled with unimaginable happiness.
Rejoining our loved ones will erase our separation anxieties taking with it, the grief that lies unsettled within our souls. At that point, we will endure another separation, the separation from those whom we leave behind. We will wait though, with great anticipation, for our dear ones to join us there, to reunite, and make our families whole.
Love is the greatest power on earth. It creates a bond that cannot be broken without our willingness and consent. It is holy and spiritual. Divine spiritual love welds us together and creates our families. The bonds of spiritual love are eternal. They do not disappear upon the death of those whom we love.
Death is not the end, it is not the ultimate adversity. Christ’s charity loosed the bonds of the grave allowing us to reunite with those whom we love – our family members and God himself. His pure love is the counter agent that we seek, and we all have that spiritual gift if we will cultivate it and protect it.
Neither drugs, doctor’s orders, crazy behaviors, nor dulling or excessive distractions will remedy the natural pain of grief. Christ’s divinely bestowed selfless love is the golden elixir. Share the divinity of spiritual love with others and see your happiness grow exponentially. And, on that glorious day when your soul is at peace, remember, it was Christ’s gift of love – his atoning sacrifice – that has saved you.
As we approach the Easter Season, I pray for everyone who grieves to receive Christ’s healing powers through his divine gift of selfless love.