He walked into the office with stooping shoulders looking dejected very sad and angry. As soon as he sat down he said “I don’t know what is wrong with me. Nothing seems to go right these days. I am not sleeping very well, I don’t have an appetite, I keep snapping at people everywhere. I need to understand what this is all about and deal with it I am just tired of it all”.

As we continued talking he suddenly became very quiet and seemed to be in deep thought like he was searching for an explanation to his predicament. After sometime he said “the only thing I can think of is that my father passed on after a short illness just over two years ago. I left him well went on a short safari. Just two days later, I was called and told he had been rushed to hospital but was stable and the family would keep me posted. When I got home three days later and wanted to go and see him I was told to wait for my uncle to come and we go together. Even though I became suspicious I chose to wait and a few minutes he arrived and didn’t seem in a hurry to go to hospital.

After a while uncle broke the news to me saying they chose not to disrupt my work since I was a short but very important assignment for me. I was speechless for some time then I felt anger welling inside me but chose not to express just then. Finally I told my uncle to take me to see dad at the mortuary. I felt cheated by the family but chose to be strong and get on with the plans to bury the old man. This is the only unusual thing I can think of.

Oh my! Coming to think of it, my young brother also died six years ago. I remember telling myself we will all die one day so I must move on with life. Could these deaths have something to do with what I am going through this last three months?”

Yes these deaths have everything to do with what this gentleman was going through. The biggest or worst of all losses is loss through death. The death of a loved one is devastating because it is final and there is a vacuum left that nothing can fill. The level of stress we experience, the emotions we go through and the thoughts we entertain often leave us feeling like we are losing our minds. Very often, those around us don’t understand the depth of our pain and may go as far as telling us to snap out of what we are experiencing and get on with life. It seems a cruel statement from them because it is not easy to just snap out.

Grief is something we have to walk through not snap out of.

We struggle to cope with death because the methods we have used to deal or cope with other difficult issues do not work now. When we struggle it’s not because we are out of our minds. What we go through is a normal reaction to an abnormally difficult situation that faces us even though we all know we will die one day. Each of us experiences the pain in a very individual way because of our intrinsic uniqueness.

Death affects us in each aspect of our being. Emotionally we experience three emotions that cushion us from the pain until we are able to grasp what has happened. These three emotions are shock, denial thinking it can’t be true and numbness. These are closely followed by sadness, anger and blame. Anger is often towards God, those around, the dead person or ourselves and these emotions lead to a lack of sleep and loss of appetite.

What this gentleman presented with is unhealthy grieving which presents through refusal to talk, mood swings, persistent depression or intense grieving much later.

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