Grief is a normal reaction to the death of a loved one but most of us are not prepared to deal with our grief. We are often frightened and upset by our reactions to the death and wonder if we will ever recover from this overwhelming emotion.
Bereavement counselors caution that grief has no timetable but often takes longer than the bereaved or the people in their lives expect. Many counselors recommend asking for and accepting help from an expert in loss and bereavement issues if any of the following experiences are intense or continue for a long period of time:
- Are you always irritable, annoyed, intolerant or angry?
- Do you experience an on-going sense of numbness or the feeling of being isolated from your own self or from others? Do you usually feel that you have no one to talk to about what happened?
- Since your loved one died, are you often highly anxious about your own death or the death of someone you love? Is it beginning to interfere with your relationships, your ability to concentrate or live as you would like to live?
- Do you feel that you are always or continually preoccupied with your loved one, his or her death, or certain aspects of it even though it's been several months since his or her death?
- Do you usually feel restless or in "high gear"? Do you feel the need to be continually busy beyond what is normal for you?
- Are you afraid of becoming close to new people for fear of losing again?
- Do you find yourself acting in ways that might prove harmful to you over time: drinking more than you used to, using more prescription or non-prescription drugs, engaging in sexual activity that is unsafe or unwise, driving in a reckless or unsafe manner or entertaining serious thoughts about suicide?
- Are you taking on too much responsibility for surviving family members or close friends? If you're feeling heavily burdened by this responsibility, angry or that the situation is "suffocating" you, it might be time to speak with someone.
- Do your grief reactions continue over time to be limited in some way? Are you experiencing only a few of the reactions or emotions that usually come with grief? Are you unable to express your thoughts or feelings about your loved one and his or her death in words or in actions?
- Is there some aspect of what you're experiencing that makes you wonder if you're normal or going crazy? Do you feel stuck in your grief in some way, unable to move on, even though it's been some time since your loved one's death?
Beyond these ten signs, trust your own judgment. If you think that talking to a professional might help, there are many resources available to you.
The Community Hospice, located in many areas throughout New York State, offers bereavement counseling and support sessions. You can ask your family funeral director for the name of a local bereavement counselor who can help you.
Remember, be patient with yourself. People have a natural inclination to recover. But, if your grief is taking over your life, it is time to seek help.