Grief is a normal response to any loss and affects the grieving person physically, emotionally, and spiritually often causing the person to think and act in ways different from their previous "normal" behavior.
You may have heard something to the effect of "just give it time and you will eventually feel better. Time is necessary to the healing process, but it is only one aspect of effective grieving.
In addition to taking time, grief requires intentional "work" by the bereaved in order to achieve a healthy outcome from the process. Similar to someone taking action to seek medical help to set a broken leg so that it might heal properly, the bereaved must take action to move through grief.
The intentional "work" of grief can be summarized in five basic tasks, which involve specific behaviors (things to do to help yourself work through grief). These five basic tasks facing a bereaved person are:
The grieving process usually takes at least one year in order to experience all the "firsts". The grief process may take as long as two or three years, but the intensity of the emotional pain should decrease during that period of time. It is important not to make important decisions too quickly because you will feel differently about things as you move through the grief process.
A sudden or unexpected death may cause significant initial shock or numbness and may also lengthen the grieving process.
Knowing in some way that a person is going to die (anticipating the death) does not reduce the intensity of the grief or pain. Anticipating the death may help motivate you to engage in some planning (e.g., concerning financial, funeral, and relationships matters) which might make the grief process less cumbersome.
The grieving process is also affected by many other factors, including the personalities of the people involved, the type of relationship someone had with the deceased, and the present circumstances of one s life (e.g., age, family structures, finances, health, employment, children, etc.).
A person can "resolve" their grief and move again into a happy, healthy and satisfying life. "Resolution" means that the emotional pain of the death no longer controls your day to day activities and that you are once again able to develop a perspective on your life which is positive and future-oriented. Moments may arise which trigger a temporary emotional response to the death in the same way that emotions are associated with other past events in our lives, but resolved grief means that you have been able to (re)construct a new "normal" lifestyle which is fulfilling and purposeful without holding on to the deceased person.
©Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. DeVries, 2000. Authors of Getting to the Other Side of Grief: Overcoming the Loss of a Spouse (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 1998) ISBN: 0-8010-5821-X