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diagram showing the stages of grief

Navigating the Stages of Grief

When we experience loss, whether the loss of a loved one, a home, or a way of life, we all go through a myriad of emotions. Though the stages of grief are often taught to help us work through loss, real grief is a lot more organic than one clear process. It is full of mixed emotions and they seem to come in waves, one after another, at various heights and intensities. After the loss, we fall apart, heal, and learn to put ourselves back together, finding ways to breathe in and out in the midst of our loss, incorporating our grief into how we find our way forward in life.

The Initial Shock of Grief

At Bio SoCal, we often work with individuals and families experiencing the initial stages of grief. Still in shock over the loss of a loved one due to suicide, an accident, unexpected death, or overdose, the loss hasn’t sunk in yet. Stunned and in disbelief, they need us to step in and help them over the initial hump of needed biohazard cleanup so they at least have a safe environment to process their loss. Awash in shock, numbness, and denial, we are a steady and supportive presence while we compassionately answer all their questions. Gently, we guide them through the process, and handle all the details we can possibly take off their shoulders such as filing the insurance claim paperwork and answering an adjuster’s questions.

Experiencing the Loss

As the initial shock of grief wears off, people often feel anger, fear, and experience emotional outbursts. Their anger may be directed at themselves, others involved in the incident, or the situation itself. Intermingled with fear, we understand emotions are pouring out of every pore and we handle the expression of these feelings with empathy and care, knowing people are grieving deep losses and are possibly going through some of the darkest days of their lives.

Breaking Apart

Once the first flood of anger and fear recedes, a person’s loss sinks in on a deeper level. Without one of the most important people in their lives, their loved ones start the process of having to reorganize how they see their lives, their homes, and themselves. Like breaking up an image and having to create a new mosaic, people are left in disorganization and panic. They are searching for meaning, for themselves, and everything seems out of place and disorienting.

Isolating is Part of the Process

Seeing one’s life as they’ve known it up to now come apart, people may feel guilty and blame themselves, wondering what they could have done differently to prevent their loved one’s death. Perhaps they wonder if they should have called for help earlier, noticed the signs of disease at an earlier stage, been home when a crime or accident occurred, or stopped someone from driving away that night. Building a wall around their hurt like scar tissue, a person may experience depression and isolation as they cut themselves off from the outside world. This isolation and, at times, depression, is a natural part of grief as the person works through the wound of their loss. It is important to respect someone’s choices during this time but to also stay connected to them so they have a hand to reach for when they are ready.

Re-Entry and New Relationships

When a person is ready to re-enter into relationships around them and create a new life for themselves, they may struggle at first as they navigate new ways of being. It’s important be patient with people as they seek to find a new balance within themselves and with others. At this stage, they may try new relationships, new patterns, and find new strengths within. They are creating anew what they want their lives to be.

Finding Hope and Affirmation

As someone grows stronger and incorporates the loss into their lives, never healing the hole left, but sitting with it, they regain hope and find affirmation. They will still feel the loss and grieve their loved one, and they will still miss them, but their life has been reformed and they are finding a new way ahead.

After years of facing numerous losses, an older gentleman reflects on this process of grief in his own life. Though grief is different for everybody, his reflection is valuable as we each move forward with the losses we carry.

“My Loved One just died. I don’t know what to do.”

Here is one gentleman’s approach to grieving and most importantly how he deals with losing someone he loves. It made a lot of sense to me so I thought I would share it and I hope it helps some.

“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, spouses, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child.

“I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

“In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection or smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

“Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at the airport. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

“Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

– Anonymous, Old Guy

Bio SoCal Provides Compassion and Biohazard Cleanup Expertise

While this pattern plays out, each part does not have a clear delineation from one to another. Feelings of guilt and anger can come again and again, even after our lives have moved on. We may go back and try to understand what happened and wonder what we may have done differently. Whatever each person is feeling, our team at Bio SoCal approaches every person with kindness and understanding. We strive to simply help however we can, keeping people safe and removing biohazards from the environment so the property is safe for whatever the grieving loved ones need to do.

If You Need Biohazard Cleanup

With compassion and experience, Bio SoCal is here for you whenever you need us. If you’re dealing with a loss and need biohazard cleanup of blood and body fluids at your property, we will take that weight off your shoulders while you grieve so you are safe and free to care for yourself and others. Give us a call today to let us know how we can help you.

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