Early Stages of Grief: The First Seven Days
Grief feels sort of like you are falling apart or having an emotional breakdown. You aren't, but it feels that way. The more you share with others who have experienced a loss, the more you realize these intense emotions are normal. So, by the end of three months, we need to begin to let the grief out.
Getting through those early days It is extremely important to take care of yourself when you have a major loss. However, that may be the last thing you think to do. Grief is so all consuming that, at first, it is all you can focus on.
Initially, there is the shock of what happened. You will not believe it is real. Many people say they feel like they are in a dream or a nightmare. They are sure they will wake up to find out it isn't real. In those early days, you will be sure that your loved one will come through the door any moment. The acceptance that this is final will take some time.
C. S. Lewis in his book, A Grief Observed, described grief as feeling like fear. Some of the sensations are like that. Your heart may be pounding, you may feel anxious, restless, and you may not be able to sleep. You may not think to eat unless someone reminds you. You may want to be alone; you may want someone with you all the time. Your concentration will not be good. You may hear people talking around you, yet not understand what they are saying. Or, what they are saying may hold no interest for you.
Guidelines for getting through the initial days:
1. Be aware you will be shaken. No matter how well you feel prepared to handle death, it is hard to deal with it when it actually happens. Death will shake the very core of your belief structure. If you are aware that this might happen, it will help you not to be so afraid when it happens.
2. Take care of yourself physically. If you have a health problem yourself, you may not think to take care of yourself. If you have been under a doctor's care recently, or have a history of heart problems, stroke, high blood pressure or any other serious health problems, it is vital to contact your physician immediately. You have just experienced a traumatic shock. That will affect your body. You may forget to take your medication or it may need to be adjusted. Let your physician know what you are going through so he or she can be of help if needed.
3. Remember to eat. As, I mentioned above, you might not think to eat. You will need your energy for the days ahead, yet food may have no interest for you. Be careful to eat regularly. Don't allow long periods of time to elapse without your eating, and be alert to consume things with nutritional value. Pie may be the only thing that tastes good, but when the sugar boost is gone, you will crash physically and emotionally.
4. Avoid mind-altering substances. If you can, avoid caffeine at this time. This will only contribute to more difficulty sleeping and increased anxiety and agitation. Perhaps try herbal tea instead. Also, avoid alcohol. Alcohol will numb the pain but create many problems later. There are many people who allow themselves to drink initially to numb the grief. It helps, so they continue. Later, they not only still have the grief with which to deal but they also have a problem with alcohol.
5. Loss in concentration. Be aware that your concentration will be affected in those early days and perhaps even for months. If you must make decisions, take a trusted friend or advisor with you. A second pair of ears is always good. Things are thrown at you so quickly that later you may not even realize what you agreed to.