It is difficult when you lose a loved one. It can be even more difficult for those who are in the process of losing a loved one. Grieving is a personal process whereas many find comfort in grieving alone while others prefer to grieve together as a group. Bereavement counseling is encouraged so that you and your family can begin preparing for the inevitable changes that are to come in the future. It is important that you not isolate yourself during this grieving process, as it can affect your emotional state and can lead to depression. Families can fall apart because of a death. Bereavement counseling allows you and your loved ones to go through the gradual process of acceptance.
The Grieving Process’ Seven Steps
- Shock/Denial: This is your initial reaction to the loss of your loved one to the terrible illness of mesothelioma. You will go through a period of denial where you lose a sense of reality of the loss. This denial is a defense mechanism that helps you cope with your loss in order to avoid the pain. The shock is an emotional cushion, providing you protection from being overwhelmed with emotions all at once.
- Pain/Guilt: When your shock wears off, the unbelievable pain will then be felt. It is important to experience the painfully, rather than avoid. You may also experience feelings of guilt, such as your regret for not spending more time with your loved one prior to the loss.
- Anger/Bargaining: Your guilt and frustration will then give way to feelings of anger. You may even begin to place unwarranted anger toward those around you, blaming the death of your loved one on someone or something else. This is the appropriate time to release bottled-up emotions you have been holding in since the time of your loss. Making bargains with yourself to make additional sacrifices
and changes in your own life in order to bring your loved one back is normal during this time period.
- Depression, Reflection and Loneliness: This is a period of sad reflection and looking in retrospect. Outside encouragement from friends and family will not help ease your emotional or mental state at this time as you begin to realize the impact of your loss after your period of initial denial. Intentional isolation is normal, but not healthy as you will spend far too much time focusing on memories of the past which may place you in a sad state of mind and could cause depression and feelings of despair and emptiness.
- Moving Forward and Up: This is the period of adjustment during your grieving process. You will soon be adjusting to your new life without your loved one and find that life will be calmer and more organized. The physical and emotional symptoms of your sadness, grief and depression will lessen.
- Reconstruction: Becoming more functional during this stage of the grieving process, you will start to seek more realistic solutions to your new life without your loved one. You may find yourself beginning to work on practical things such as your finances, family and the rebuilding of your life altogether. It is a period of planning your life without your loved one through realistic means.
- Acceptance, Hope: Learning to accept the reality of the situation in its entirety is what this last step involves. The knowledge that happiness will not occur instantly is realistic. Finding a way to move forward under realistic pretenses is normal. Finding unrealistic ways to move forward is still living in avoidance to lessen the pain of your loss.
Often times, patients who are terminally ill with mesothelioma go through their own process of grieving and acceptance. From the time you are diagnosed to the time your illness is staged and considered terminal, you will become familiar with feelings of:
- Denial: Many patients will feel unready, unprepared and prefer to act aloof rather than face their diagnosis and predicament. This denial can cause many patients to become bitter and angry, taking out their frustrations on loved ones.
- Anger: In this stage of the process, you will no longer feel in control of your life and ultimately, your death. Feelings of helplessness and guilt will cause you to direct your anger toward those around you.
- Bargaining: At this stage, you are more willing to compromise, promising to do or not do certain things in order to buy yourself more time. You will be suffering from insecurities regarding your inability to take care of your family. This can cause a rift to grow between you and your loved ones. Essentially, during this stage, you are not prepared to go due to unfinished business.
- Depression: Feelings of the inability to deal with your remaining responsibilities and depression are typical of terminal mesothelioma and are nearly impossible to ignore. You will be more aware, but filled with anger and sorrow. This is the time of self-mourning.
- Acceptance: After the internal emotional conflicts from the time of your diagnosis to the time you go through stages of depression, you will reach a point of acceptance. You will succumb to the reality of your mortality and physically become tired and weak. You will be far less emotional during this acceptance phase and experience calmness. No longer will you fear the unforeseen. Allowing yourself to be in a hospice is a good sign of acceptance. Resignation and defeat are signs that you are not in the acceptance stage, but are still lingering in the stages of depression and self-mourning.
Bereavement counseling not only helps you, but it also helps your family learn how to emotionally prepare for the time when you are no longer around. Bereavement counseling can be beneficial as it can help maintain a sense of direction and forward movement on your loved ones' behalf, helping them go on with their day-to-day lives. Normal daily functioning after the loss can help your family in continuing, maintaining or obtaining financial and emotional security rather than give into despair and hopelessness.