Marie’s garden was a breath-taking oasis of vibrant colour, cooling shade, trickling water falls and fragrant scents wafting through the flowers, shrubs and plants. Marie had begun her garden after the loss of her husband and grandson in a tragic car accident. Ion the beginning, she attacked the garden in a frantic outpouring of grief but soon found that she was pacing the work, allowing each plant to take root, be nurtured and allowed to flourish. Months later, the garden was her chosen place to find peace and tranquility. Grief could have overwhelmed Marie, causing her pain and untold suffering. Instead, she chose to engage in creating and maintaining her garden. Its creation did not erase her grief, but it did help her cope with the pain of her grief in a healthy and forward -moving process.
Grief is an emotion and a normal human reaction to death or loss. It is the feeling we experience when someone or something we love is no longer a part of our lives. As we grieve, we try to make sense of the death or loss. Each person deals with grief in a different way but there are similarities in the ways that we process our grief. These similarities are known as the stages of grief.
There are seven stages in the grieving process. They are:
- Shock and denial: you react to the news of the loss with disbelief. Denial is a way of avoiding the pain of the truth and protecting you from the pain of reality.
- Pain and guilt: you experience the deepest of physical and emotional pain. You may feel guilt over things that you did or did not share with your loved one. It is important to acknowledge this pain and not try to avoid it or escape from it.
- Anger and bargaining: you may lash out and try to place the blame for your loved one’s death on someone or something else. You may ask “why me?” You may try to bargain with spiritual powers, making promises “….if only you will bring him back”. You will need to vent your feelings at this stage and if a good friend offers to listen, take advantage of the offer.
- Depression, withdrawal, loneliness, reflection: this stage may be one in which you feel very isolated. Time has passed and while the lives of others seem to resume a normal pace, you may feel as if you are living in a somewhat altered stage – going through the day-to-day routine of your former life, but inwardly, you are exploring the depth of your loss, coping with the changes in your life and re-living memories of the past. This is a stage where you may feel depressed, empty and left behind. Making decisions is difficult and moving forward may seem to be an impossible task. This is a time for taking baby steps rather than giant leaps. Be patient with yourself.
- Reconstruction: during this stage, you will find that you are becoming more efficient and functional. Problem-solving and decision-making will become easier. You will discover solutions to problems that may have confused you just weeks earlier. You will begin to work on social, emotional and financial matters. Life will seem to have more windows than walls.
- Acceptance: during this state, you will come to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance will not bring instant and complete happiness. You have changed and will be changed forever by your loss. You have been emotionally scarred and but you are feeling more confident in your abilities to move forward and re-enter a life without your loved one.
- Hope: at this stage, you will begin to look forward to tomorrow and the weeks that follow. You will begin to plan for your future. You will always carry the memories of your loved one with you, but your ability to move forward is evident and you will anticipate good times to come. Be open to new and positive experiences.
The grieving process is not a cycle through which you move through one stage directly into the next and so on to the end. If you are grieving, you may move back and forth between stages, stay at one stage for months or experience two or three stages at the same time. There is no right or wrong way to grieve – you will grieve in your own way and in your own time. Remember that your feelings are normal. You may find that it helps to express your grief through writing, painting, reading, mediation, yoga, volunteering, joining a bereavement group or engaging in a therapeutic activity such as gardening, painting, woodwork or physical activity. If you cannot cope, do not hesitate to seek help. Begin with your family doctor who will assess your needs and make recommendations for your benefit.
The professionals of the Garden Hill Cremation and Funeral Services have extensive training in the grieving process. We are available to support you at any time in a compassionate and professional atmosphere where you can express your feelings openly. Contact us for more information.