Denial: the stage of denial, like all other stages of grieving, effects different people in different ways. Some people experience almost no period of denial or just a short period of shock, while others may stay in this stage for weeks and even months.
In the case of a sudden or traumatic death, the reality may seem even more difficult to grasp. Or when you have stood by another person’s long, chronic illness, you may feel numb or even lost.
In either case, you may find yourself moving about mechanically, planning or attending memorials, funerals, or other ceremonies. You may feel a quiet sense of aloneness or a panicky elusive confusion. You may shake your head often in disbelief and dismay, thinking, “Surely, this could not be happening, not to me, not now.”
- But the stage of denial, like the stage of Anger and Bargaining, serve as the mind’s defense mechanism, and permit the reality to slowly permeate our being. During this daunting time, you may find the following tips quite useful:
- Stay close to trusted family and friends during this time. A clergy member or therapist can also be informed and asked to be on call for support. Do not feel pressured to communicate outside those circles, other than informing your place of work.
- Remember that other family and friends will experience the loss differently from you. Accept that fact without judgment of them or yourself. One person may display intense anger, while another just cries for hours. There is no “correct” or advanced way of grieving. The process is as unique as the person experiencing it.
- Don’t pressure your self or be pressured to display something other than what you are currently feeling right now. You may feel a real sense of numbness. Many grieving people say, “Why can’t I cry?” “Why don’t I feel anything?” Just accept your current state. There are no should haves. Don’t worry what other people may think or feel.
- Don’t push yourself. Give your mind and body time to adjust. Do not attempt to accomplish everything you normally do. You may want to take time off from work, or work may be a comfort to you—however, go at an easy pace. For example, you may be used to strenuous daily workouts; these can be downgraded to 20-minute walks. The important thing is not what you are doing but at what pace you are moving. Take it easy.
- Your first reaction may be to run away from the situation through drugs or alcohol. These substances will not remove the pain. In fact, they may skew the grieving process and exacerbate the situation tremendously. Alcohol is a depressant. Stay away from mind-altering substances, and avoid too much caffeine and sugar.
- Overall, the most important element to the entire grieving process is you. Supporting others may make you feel better, but only after you focus on your own self-care. Try to eat five small balanced meals a day. Graze on healthy snacks. Get fresh air, and stick to a bedtime routine. Make sure that you continue any prescribed medications, and take a vitamin supplement daily.