Empaths: The Mourning After

Recently people have come to me with questions about grieving.  They’ve asked how one gets over the lose of someone they love.  How does one move on from a breakup with a loved one?  How does one move beyond mourning when a loved one passes away? How does one walk away, effectively cutting a connection, when friends become toxic and disparaging?

I’d like to say this is an Empath issue, because people who are emotionally hypersensitive feel this kind of pain more acutely than others, in a much deeper way.  But alas, this is not so.  Everyone suffers this whether it is through death, breakup or the end of a friendship.

The Grieving Process

Through the period of one single lifetime, things evolve and change over time. People come and go in our lives. Those we love pass away or drift away from us. And in the stark reality of that lose, we are left alone to grieve in our own unique ways.

Many people have tried to explain what grief is; some have even identified certain stages of grief. Probably the most well-known of these might be from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ book, “On Death and Dying.” In it, she identified five stages that a dying patient experiences when informed of their terminal prognosis. These stages can easily be applied to other forms of lose, as well.

The stages Kubler-Ross identified are:

  • Denial (this isn’t happening to me!)
  • Anger (why is this happening to me?)
  • Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…)
  • Depression (I don’t care anymore)
  • Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes)

Within these stages there are also many different symptoms that range in types. They are expressed mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and even behaviorally. Let’s look at some of these symptoms:

Physical

  • Hyperactive or under active
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Physical distress such as chest pains, abdominal pains, headaches, nausea
  • Change in appetite
  • Weight change
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping problems
  • Restlessness
  • Crying and sighing
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the throat

Mental

  • Confusion (memory, concentration, judgment and comprehension difficulties)
  • Intrusion (unwanted thoughts, arousal, nightmares)
  • Dissociation (feeling of detachment and unreality, disorientation, denial)

Emotional

  • Numbness
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Relief
  • Irritability
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Longing
  • Anxiety
  • Meaninglessness
  • Apathy
  • Vulnerability
  • Abandonment

Social

  • Overly sensitive
  • Dependent
  • Withdrawn
  • Avoid others
  • Lack of initiative
  • Lack of interest

Behavioral

  • Forgetfulness
  • Searching for the deceased
  • Slowed thinking
  • Dreams of the deceased
  • Sense the loved one’s presence
  • Wandering aimlessly
  • Trying not to talk about loss in order to help others feel comfortable around them
  • Needing to retell the story of the loved one’s death

Spiritual

Questioning the reason for:

  • Your loss
  • The purpose of pain and suffering
  • The purpose of life
  • The meaning of death

On the surface, mourning seems only to be about death. It is the process by which we learn to cope with the lose of someone we’ve known and cared for. But while it includes death, it does not preclude other types of lose, as well. Whether a person lives or dies after they have left us, is relatively moot, because that sharp stab of pain that wrenches the heart into tearful refrain, comes upon us either way.

You know what I mean. Your mother passes away. Your husband or boyfriend leaves you for someone else. A friend tells you how horrible they think you are and the friendship ends. The pain comes, despite the circumstances, and it hurts, without reserve.

Moving Beyond Grief

Now that we better understand the general process of grieving, lets look at some ways that we can help ourselves work through the our mourning and bereavement. Now some of these ideas will perhaps apply more in one situation than another (ie., death to a breakup). So with that in mind, take what works for you and leave the rest.

1. Be patient with yourself: Mourning is not an overnight process. So allow yourself plenty of time for healing.
2. Acknowledge your pain: Grief must be acknowledged in order to move forward. Avoidance only prolongs one’s suffering.
3. Let tears flow freely: Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling. And let yourself cry when the urge rises within you.
4. Seek out support from family and friends: Allow yourself to turn to friends and family when you need comfort, a shoulder to cry on, or to open up.
5. Get professional help: Do not be afraid to talk to a Grief Counselor, therapist or doctor.
6. Join a support group: You aren’t alone in your pain, despite how isolated you feel. There are people who understand what you are going through.  So do not be afraid to seek out a support group.
7. Pray and/or Meditate: Prayer is the simplest thing you can do and with it wondrous things can happen.
8. Journal about your pain and your grieving: Sometimes writing one’s feelings down can be very cathartic because it allows a degree of expression that is both open and private at the same time.  One can openly say what they feel, think and wish for without censure or debate.
9.  Sleep: Make sure you allow yourself to get enough rest.
10. Get a massage or acupuncture: While it might seem like a waste of time on the surface, you never quite realize how much stress you are accumulating until you feel someone’s hands kneading the knots out of your muscles.
11.  Walk in nature: Being outside, around fresh air and vibrant life of all kinds, can help us find the sense of peace we tend to forget exists when we are in the throws of mourning.
12. Take care of yourself: Eat healthy, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, exercise
13.  Learn to say NO: We rarely realize how draining/exhausting the process of mourning can be.  And while we are suffering from it’s debilitating pain, it is alright to say no to those who come beseeching your help.
14. Take comfort in spirituality/faith: Despite what religion you are, allow yourself to turn to your higher power  to find comfort and unending love.
15. Focus on yourself: Remember you are just as important as everyone else, and when you are suffering, there is nothing wrong with putting your issues before others.
16. Adopt a pet: Animals can lighten one’s mood like nothing else.  And in them, we can find companionship, understanding and devotion.
17. Make a point of being more social: Let yourself meet new people
18. Avoid stress: Avoid stressful situations and making large decisions, because when grief consumes a person they will sometimes make impromptu decisions which regret later.
19.  Take part in uplifting activities: Let yourself be creative because these types of activities give one a focal point with which to center their pain and express it in a constructive way.
20.  Believe in yourself: Despite your lose, be true to yourself as an authentic person and believe in yourself.
21. Allow yourself to practice each of the ideas above imperfectly.

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~ by Misuchi Sakurai on February 2, 2011.

One Response to “Empaths: The Mourning After”

  1. >Misu, you shared great wisdom in this post. What helped me a lot is Grief counseling. It gave me a voice to share my pain with others who understood.

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