Good grief

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Michelle: These past few days I saw and read several news articles, posts and comments about Robin Williams. Many mourned his death and were really affected by his unexpected demise. Having lost my dad recently, I learned that coping with loss is a very personal and singular experience. Nobody can help you go through it easily or understand all the emotions that you are going through.

Grieving has no time limit, nor one “right” way to do it. I read an article that says that there are actually stages of mourning and grief. The five stages do not necessarily occur in any specific order as all people grieve differently. The first stage is denial and isolation. The first reaction is to deny the reality of the situation which is said to be a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

DJ: It is essential for a person to go through the grieving process. But we also have to encourage him or her to gather courage to move on and continue with his or her life. Life can be difficult sometimes. And if there’s something that should keep us company on our moments of grief, it’s our sense of humor and our faith that things will soon be okay.


At one point in our lives, we all go through the pain that comes with losing. But while we should not forget the people who left us, we should also strive to live for today. As someone wise once said, life isn’t just about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s also about learning how to dance in the rain.

M: And as the song goes “blame it on the rain”! The article further states that as the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge.

The intense emotion is deflected, redirected and expressed instead as anger, the second stage. This stage finds one directing one’s anger to inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or even family. After the anger stage, comes bargaining. The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control.

There are a lot of what ifs, if only’s and regrets which inevitably lead to depression, the fourth stage. Experiencing death in the family is depressing but my realization is that though life is short and uncertain, if we have faith and believe that there is a better place for us where there is no more pain and suffering and where we will be at peace with our God, we will see death not as a loss but as a gain.

DJ: I remember a story about three buddies who died in a car accident. They went to heaven for an orientation where they were all asked: “When you were in your casket and friends and family were mourning over you, what would you have wanted to hear them say about you?”

The first guy said, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time and a great family man.” The second guy said, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference on our children of tomorrow.” Then the last guy replied, “I would like to hear them say, ‘Look, he’s moving’!”

Seriously, grief is a normal internal feeling one experiences in reaction to a loss. But the bereavement period is usually short when there are less regrets, less could haves, should haves and would haves.

M: Reaching the acceptance stage is a gift not afforded to everyone. Some never see beyond their anger or denial. In the words of author Anne Morrow Lindberg, “Suffering no matter how multiplied, is always individual.”

To all of us who are grieving in one way or another, here are some helpful guidelines that will hopefully help us cope with and accept our loss: Remember that no matter how much pain we may feel, we will survive our loss. Emotional ups and downs are a normal part of any grieving process. In order to get past the difficult feelings, we must experience them. Don’t try to speed up or avoid the process. If you do, you will not heal properly.

Care for yourself. Rest, eat well (even if you aren’t hungry) and exercise (even if you don’t want to). Ask those you love and trust for support. You don’t have to face this alone.

Write about your loss, pain or grief. I did and I continue to write about it because writing brings out our unexpressed emotions to the surface and encourages the grieving process to move along. As my favorite saying goes: “Pain is inevitable. Misery is optional.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 24, 2014.


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