- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 29, 2004

People commonly talk about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Kathy Persson, director of Grief and Loss Services at Capital Hospice in Fairfax, says these stages are more appropriate for coming to terms with dying.

For those who are grieving someone’s death, she prefers four steps to reconciling their grief. These come from William Worden, who wrote “Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy” (1982) for mental health practitioners.

• Accept the reality of the loss.

• Allow yourself to deal with the pain. Feel it. Don’t deny the hurt.

• Ask yourself, “How do I keep living and doing what I need to do?”

• Tell yourself that you can not just adjust, but also make a wonderful life. It won’t be the same, but it can be wonderful in a different way. You shouldn’t expect to forget the person who died, but you have to place that person a little over in your heart.

Other emotions come along the way. People who have nursed a spouse, often for the whole illness and often gladly, confront the fear of having no one to take care of them when it’s their turn.

Another fear is that they’ll forget the sound of their lost one’s voice. Some keep a voice on the answering machine; it’s a way of holding on for a little bit longer, Ms. Persson says.

A lot of people do get angry. “Although they know rationally that most people don’t choose to die,” Ms. Persson says, “they’re frustrated with dealing with these other issues. And if the person died leaving bills or no insurance, the [survivor] asks, ‘How could you have left me with this mess?’ — and that makes them upset.”

The Web site for the Grief Center (www.alivehospice.org/services/grief_center.html), based in Nashville, Tenn., has a short list of signs that a grieving person is healing.

Healing begins when you:

• Express your feelings.

• Are patient with yourself.

• Stay alert to your physical needs.

• Learn more about grief and its effects.

• Ask for help when needed.

— Lois M. Baron

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