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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Common Reactions

Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows the intense pain of this loss. The closer the loved one was to you, the worse the pain. At times, the pain can be so strong that it feels like it will never go away. But rest assured, the intensity of the pain usually subsides after you have gone through a natural period of grief.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Common Reactions


Common reactions to the death of a loved one:
Everyone grieves in his or her own way. There is no right way to grieve and no specific amount of time that it should take.

The important thing is not to judge yourself or anyone else about this. When grief is profound, the feelings can be so strong that you might feel like you're losing your mind. Even though we know, at least on an intellectual level, that death is part of life, most of us are not prepared for the depth of feelings. So, it's important to know that you're not losing your mind and there are some common reactions during the early stages of grief:

Disbelief:
Losing someone you love can be hard to believe. You might feel like you're dreaming and the death is not real. You might feel emotionally numb at first. On some level, you might even believe that your loved one is just in the other room or about to come home or about to call. It's not unusual to "forget" and pick up the phone to call her, especially if this was part of your daily routine, only to be reminded each time, as if anew, that she is no longer alive.

Another common reaction is to have dreams about your loved one that are so real that you might believe that you actually saw him. One common dream is to see your loved one and hear him say that he's not really dead at all, that it was a terrible mistake. This can be very confusing when you wake up, especially because of the powerful nature of this type of dream. You might also think that you "see" him walking down the street, only to find as you get closer that this person looks nothing like him. This can be very disturbing and sad. It's usually a projection from your mind--a wish to see the person again, which is completely understandable.

Sadness:
Losing someone that you love can make you feel extremely sad. The sadness can feel endless at the time. You might find yourself consumed with this sadness. It's not unusual to cry a lot, especially at first.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Common Reactions

Guilt:
Another common reaction is to feel that you could've done something more to prevent her death or you wish you had said something (or not said something) before she passed. You might have the feeling of "If only I had..." (fill in the blank). Not only is this guilt, but it is an attempt to feel that you could've had more control over the situation than you probably had. It's a stage that people often go through before they have accepted, on a deep emotional level, that their loved one is really gone.

Anger:
It's not unusual to feel angry when you lose someone close to you. Even when you know on some level that no one is really to blame for your loved one's death, you might feel angry with your siblings, the doctors, yourself, even God.

Anxiety:
You might think, "What will it be like without him?" or "How will I go on day after day?" You might feel more vulnerable yourself or for the rest of your family. A close loss often turns our world upside down. You might feel, "If this could happen, what else might happen?" These are frightening thoughts.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Common Reactions

Bodily discomfort:
Intense grief can bring about bodily discomfort: aches and pains, changes in sleep or appetite (either increase or decrease), upset stomach, exhaustion, and other physical symptoms.

Grief can come in "waves." It's not unusual to feel a roller coast of moods. Maybe you're very sad one moment, feel somewhat relieved the next moment, only to feel sad again. This is all normal.

About Me:
I'm a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com

Also see my articles:
Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: How to Take Care of Yourself
Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Complicated Grief