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Once again, every part of grief can last a varying amount of time for each person. Normally, after a person experiences shock and numbness, the "fog" starts to disappear and they are left with all the feelings and emotions associated with loss and grief. This is usually the time when I get phone calls from clients, stating, "I thought I was fine, but now I feel like I am losing my mind!" Unfortunately the shock and numbness parts of grief make us think that we are "fine" when in fact we haven't even started really grieving yet.



          Once again, every part of grief can last a varying amount of time for each person. Normally, after a person experiences shock and numbness, the "fog” starts to disappear and they are left with all the feelings and emotions associated with loss and grief. This is usually the time when I get phone calls from clients, stating, "I thought I was fine, but now I feel like I am losing my mind!” Unfortunately the shock and numbness parts of grief make us think that we are "fine” when in fact we haven’t even started really grieving yet.

          This is a very difficult time for people and can last anywhere from 3 months to over 24 months. Of course, people can still experience many feelings many years after a person has died, but the majority of the strong feelings that need to be worked through can take place during that time period. There are no amount of words to describe the vast array of feelings and emotions that one can experience during this time but they can vary from anger, relief, sadness, guilt, frustration, loneliness etc. As a therapist, I think that this is one of the loneliest times for my clients, because no one is ever fully capable of fully understanding their emotions.

          Think of it this way, even if you’re father died the same way, at the same age, and from the same disease as someone else, your relationship with him would be unique, and no one in the entire world had the relationship that you did with your father. This is what makes grief very lonely and contributes to many people feeling like "no one understands”. It is because no one can. People can be empathetic, sure, however the relationship is unique and words that were exchanged, and times together, the arguments, the headaches, as well as the good times, are only between you and the person who passed away.

          Many people feel guilt for not feeling more upset than they do. It is a sad reality, but sometimes we do not have the fairytale relationships that they talk about in storybooks. Sometimes it is much more complicated than that. This is an extreme example, but what if the person who died was abusing you, or abused you as a child? This could mean that when they pass away that you are now free from their abuse (although you will still have to work through your feelings about it). It is normal to feel relief when someone dies as well. Perhaps they were suffering from a disease that was taking their memory, or their physical functions? Having them pass away could be a relief to you. I have heard many clients talk about what it is like to take care of someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Although many of them would not trade the experience, they also feel extremely burnt out from caring for this person, many times ignoring their own needs and family members to do so.

--Larissa Humiston, MSW, LCSW

 
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