Jessica would never forget the night she awoke in the middle of an earthquake. All she could think of was getting out of the house. Later, she huddled with her family and looked at the ruins of their home. “What are we going to do?” she whispered.
Eric slammed his bedroom door. He didn’t want to talk to his father OR his mother. “I felt angry about the divorce,” he said later, “but scared, too. I wasn’t sure what would happen to me.”
Marcie used to stay with her grandmother after school. Sometimes she brought a friend, and they listened to her wonderful stories. “Whenever I had a problem, Marcie said, “I took it to my grandmother. She was the person trusted most. When she died, I couldn’t believe it. She had always been there for me.”
I Didn’t Plan It This Way
Jessica, Eric, and Marcie felt afraid, angry, and sad. These are normal emotions for anyone whose world has been turned upside down.
The earthquake that destroyed Jessica’s home, the divorce of Eric’s parents, and the death of Marcie’s grandmother were traumatic events. They caused pain and suffering.
Eric put it this way, “I didn’t want the divorce to happen. When I realized my dad was moving out, I panicked because I couldn’t stop him.”
Marcie said, “I was angry when my grandmother died. I felt like I was being cheated out of something that was mine.”
Jessica couldn’t believe her home was gone. “I stood there and watched the roof cave in, but I thought we must be at the wrong address.”
When you lose something or someone you love the unhappy feelings you experience are called grief. It’s perfectly normal to feel angry, afraid, confused, lonely, even guilty.
Eric said, “At first, I was mad at my parents. Then I wondered if the divorce was my fault. I was confused and scared.”
People who are grieving might also feel sick, tearful, or tired. They might have trouble making decisions, worry a lot, or act out in an aggressive manner.
Grieving is a healing process that requires time. Experts have found that we learn to deal with grief by going through these five stages that are necessary for recovery:
1. Shock and Denial
When her grandmother died, Marcie didn’t want to go to the funeral. “I didn’t want to admit she was gone,” she said. “I tried not to think about her because remembering made me cry.
“For a while,” Eric said, “I was pretty mean to both my parents. I guess it was my way of getting back at them for disappointing me.”
“I thought I could make things OK by making promises,” he went on. “I said I would do my homework without being asked if my dad would move back.”
Depression may occur when you realize that something bad has happened and you can’t do anything about it. “When we were sifting through the wreckage of our home,” Jessica said, “I found our house number. I sat down in all that mess and cried. I couldn’t pretend anymore that it was all a terrible mistake.”
“I thought nothing would be right again,” Jessica continued. “But after I admitted our house was gone, I was able to start thinking about the future. I realized how lucky we were to be unharmed and able to go on living.”
Where Do I Go from Here?
You don’t have to sit around and wait for the bad feelings to go away. Here are some positive things you can do to help yourself.
Do something for somebody. Once a week, Marcie visited the kids at a local children’s hospital. “I told them some of my grandmother’s stories,” Marcie said. “They loved them. I still miss my grandmother, but when I remember her by sharing her stories, it doesn’t hurt so much.”
Be active. Jessica says her attitude improves when she runs. Marcie likes aerobic exercise. Eric plays baseball with his friends. “Even when I strike out, it makes me feel good to try to hit that ball,” he says.
Other people like to dance, do gymnastics, or just take a long walk. Being active is a good way to get over feeling down.
Be creative. Eric and his friends get together after school to play their guitars. Jessica signed up for stage crew to help paint the set for the school musical and found it was not only fun but also helped her work out her feelings.
Marcie joined a community drama club. “It’s great,” she said. “When I’m acting, I can be angry or scared, and nobody gets mad at me. I can even cry and not be embarrassed.”
Writing is another good way to get things off your chest. Many people enjoy writing down their thoughts in a journal.
Talk about it. When you need to talk, it’s important to find the right person to listen. Some people feel embarrassed when they hear other people’s problems. Others might not take you seriously. Talk to your teacher, school counselor, or clergyperson. They can help you find a support group where people with similar problems talk and listen to each other.
When bad things happen, it’s normal to have feelings of grief. Going through the grieving process takes time. Dealing with these feelings in a positive way helps the healing process.
RELATED ARTICLE: When to Go for Help
Good physical and mental health help people cope with loss in positive ways. Some people have more difficulty than others, however, going through the grieving process. The following symptoms may indicate a need for professional help:
* Isolation from friends and family
* Aggression toward others
* A lack of interest in personal appearance
* A desire to sleep through most of the day
* Loss of appetite
* Difficulty concentrating for more than a few minutes