The Early Days

The days and weeks following the death of a loved one can be very bleak. Life may seem to have lost its meaning and the days their purpose as you somehow stumble through the hours, often without really knowing how or what you are doing. Confusing and conflicting thoughts and emotions crowd into the painful present along with memories of the past. Sometimes you think that your tears will never stop; feelings of depression and lack of energy may worry you. What you are experiencing is not unusual. It does not mean that you are “falling apart.”

Physically you are tired, perhaps truly exhausted, particularly if you cared for your loved one during a terminal illness. On the other hand, you may be reeling from the shock of an unexpected death. In both cases, neither your body nor your mind functions normally; sleep as well as appetite may suffer and so contribute to the lack of energy that you feel. But all of this you know, for you are in the midst of grief - a state that right now seems endless. The road to final acceptance of loss must be traveled by each grieving person at his or her own pace, for grief is both an intensely personal experience - its content is your life - and, at the same time, it is universal. You are not alone today in your pain.

Joy and sorrow are basic human emotions. The first one we welcome, the second we avoid. But in grief we need to acknowledge our sorrow and admit it into our lives. It cannot be made to disappear and we can - eventually - accept its reality, learn its lesson, and go on with our lives.

Now is not a time to blame yourself for what you did not do in the past or what you cannot do in the present. But rather it is a time to be patient with yourself, while you are suffering the pain of emotional wounds which have not yet had time to begin to heal. Remember that the intense pain you now feel will slowly fade to a gentle sadness, one that will again allow room for joy to enter your life. This, then, is a time to be sad but not a time to abandon hope.