Stress comes into our lives through many forms, and none can stress our mind, body, and should more so than loosing someone close. Grief is an emotion, a deep sense of loss which comes whenever we are cut off from contact with someone we have loved. In one sense divorce, homesickness, and the pain of prolonged separation are all grief reactions, but nothing is as final as death itself. There is no such thing as a normal or typical grief reaction. Each of us experiences grief in a somewhat unique way, but there are some reactions which are extremely common. First, for example, there is shock, a stunned disbelief that comes even when the death was expected. Usually this is a short stage, lasting only a few hours or days.
At some time we begin to be overwhelmed with emotions – sorrow, depression, loneliness, intense longing for the lost person. At first there is value in expressing these emotions, but such catharsis expressions are only part of the process. We need to begin what has been called the “work of mourning”, which means thinking about our past days with the deceased, pondering past joys and sorrows, deciding what we will do next, facing the guilt that we feel, acknowledging the hostility and resentment that we may feel toward the doctors, toward the departed person, and even toward God.
The funeral can help, especially if the mourners are not afraid to cry and can express their love and support for the survivors. Funerals have been criticized in our society for their contribution to the denial of death, but sometimes the presence of the body brings home the reality of the situation and reaffirms the survivors’ faith in God and the hereafter.
The work of mourning goes on for many months. Every memory of the loved person is likely to be brought up and relived in the mourner’s imagination before the work of mourning is complete. Slowly the mourner picks up life again and goes on as best as possible in view of the loved one’s departure.
At times, mourners like to be left alone, but they also need people – people who love them, help them with the practical realities of living without the deceased, pray with and for them, and remember them in a special way on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other difficult times.
Stress Is Deadly
Psychological and physical disorders associated with stress are associated with chronic stress and exhaustion. Creatures actually die from intense unrelieved stress. It happens all of the time with men and women who have kept stress and tension within their lives.
In humans, infants deprived of adequate physical and emotional nurturing are considered chronically stressed. Infants and very young children have died as a result of such deprivation. Indeed, adults dealing with chronic stress are at higher risk for heart attacks and strokes, which are themselves life-threatening.
The medical community today estimates that excess stress plays a role in 70-90 percent of all health complaints plaguing modern societies. Realizing the implications of the results of study in this field, researchers at centers around the world continue to build on this research to better understand the nature of stress and how we can cope with it.