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Editor's Note:  "Borderlines," BAMHS' periodic column, provides ideas and suggestions for healthy living, better family life and successful strategies for coping with life's challenges. Our newsletter is updated frequently! Check back often.
Posted: June 24, 2009
Last Updated: June 24, 2009

Grief for the loss of a loved one is a universal experience. We will all lose someone we love during our lifetime, but grief is one of the least accepted emotions in our culture. People donít know how to express their personal grief, much less console someone who suffering from a recent loss.  The bereavement period after a death is stressful for families and can cause a major emotional crisis.

Those experiencing grief may have a wide range of emotional responses after the death of a loved one, even if it is expected. The most common is an initial stage of numbness after learning of the death. After that there is no real order to the experience emotional loss has on a person. People can be in denial, express disbelief, show signs of shock and confusions, yearn for the return of the loved one, and experience anger or despair. All these feelings are normal reactions to the loss. The intensity of these emotions can be overwhelming at times. They also might last longer than one would expect.

One of the most common misconceptions about grief is that it should be over quickly. No one recovers in a day from the grief caused by the loss of a loved one; it is a process that must be worked through so you can come to terms with your loss. This process of accepting major loss is called mourning, and it can last for months or years depending on the individual.

Expressing your emotions at this time is critical to help solve those feelings and come to terms with your grief. Many times people are hesitant to speak about death. In our society, death and all it entails is avoided, but to mourn and grieve is a fundamental part of human nature. Some of the first and oldest archeological discoveries are burial sites where our ancestors left cherished items with their loved one who had passed on. Our ancestors understood the significance of death and the need to honor their departed.

Today many people are sheltered from the inevitable and lack the emotional intelligence or wisdom of how to express their grief and loss with the death of a loved one, but if people repress or ignore their emotional response to loss they may cause physical or emotional illness.

Many people report physical illness accompanying grief. Loss of appetite, sleep disruptions and stomach pain are all common symptoms of grief. Emotional reactions to grief can include anxiety attacks, depression, and fatigue.

But coping with the death of a loved one is vital to a personís mental heath. The best thing you can do is allow yourself or the person suffering the loss time to grieve. There are many ways to cope effectively with grief and the emotions it inspires. Here are a few ideas on where to start:

   Seek the company of others who can understand what you are going through. There are support groups for grieving people in most communities that can offer support and understanding. Hospitals and funeral homes can refer you to the support groups available in your area.

   Express your feelings. This can help you work through the grieving process more effectively.

   Be aware of your health. The stress of losing a loved one can worsen existing conditions or create new ones. Be certain to eat well and get enough sleep, 8 to 10 hours a night is sufficient but more than that can signal depression.

   Postpone major life changes as they will add more stress to you and your body. Give yourself sufficient time to adjust to your loss before taking on any major changes in your life.

   Be patient. It can take months or even years to absorb a major loss and accept your changed life.

   Seek outside help, like counseling, if your grief seems overwhelming. Professional counseling can help you work through your grief.

To learn more about grief counseling call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649 for referral; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.


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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.