The Early Days:
Surviving the First Few Days of Bereavement
By Greg Wright, Father of Stephen Wright, January 2007
What are the most important things to know during the first few weeks of bereavement? Several months ago, my wife and I put our heads together and came up with a list. We hope it will be helpful.
- Beware of survivor's guilt. Irrational guilt brings its best attorney. You cannot defeat his arguments, but you can ignore him.
- Focus not on the rest of your life but just on getting through the next fifteen minutes.
- Expect grief to affect every part of you:
- Physically-shortness of breath, pressure in your chest, and weakness.
- Mentally-concentration, ability to make good decisions, and will to live.
- Spiritually-confidence in prayer.
- Emotionally-ability to restrain anger and sadness.
- Be careful what you say to people, especially words expressed in anger.
- Expect people to do stupid things. You will have to ignore many things people will say to you. Rare are the people who fully understand what you are going through right now. Great is the necessity of being prepared to overlook and forgive.
- Let people help you. Not only do you need them, but you actually minister to them when you allow them to help you.
- Recognize that everyone grieves differently.
- Guard your marriage at all costs. Recognize that men will usually grieve differently from their wives.
- Guard your identity--even if you lost your only child, you are still a mother or father; you have been forever changed by having a child.
- Guard yourself from despair. Grief only seems unbearable. Many can testify that it can be endured.
- Guard your faith. If faith is a part of your life, this is not the time to examine your faith. This is the time to stand firm in that faith.
- Delay major decisions.
- Simplify your life as much as possible. Make lists, identify next actions for each item, and focus on the next action. Ask others to help you.
- Due to compromised ability to concentrate: be very careful with driving, working in the kitchen, and anything you do on a computer.
- Be patient with your progress: grief must run its course.
- Be gentle with yourself and let yourself grieve.
- Be realistic about what faith does for you. Faith does not take the pain away, but it does make the pain bearable.
- Let yourself be comforted. Hang onto words of encouragement. Even if they do not encourage you immediately, they will eventually if you do not throw them away. It's just that grief delays their effect.
- Be careful about alcohol. If you are not used to it, this is not the time to start. If you are used to it, resist any temptation to increase the quantity.
- Be careful about sleeping pills. My wife could not sleep for days, so the doctor put her on pills. Nevertheless, it was a struggle to get off of them.
- If faith is a part of your life, pray for strength, and visit those Bible passages that deal with grief: especially Psalm 10, Psalm 13, Psalm 42, Psalm 62, Psalm 63, and Psalm 73.
- Guard your memories, and tell people you want to talk about your loved one.
- Be willing to heal. Anger closes the door to healing, and bitterness throws away the key.
- Cry till you run out of tears. Grief seems to have a mind of its own. Donít try to fight it. Your heart will tell you when you need to pull away and grieve.