Q: It's been four months since my lifelong best friend was tragically killed in a car accident. I'm extremely depressed and grieving. My work, personal and love lives are all suffering. I've started therapy, but haven't made much progress over my grief. I feel somehow that my life stopped when my buddy passed. I'd love some tips on how to accept and move on. Thanks.
A: I can't properly express how sorry I am for your loss. To have someone that special to you pass away so unexpectedly is not only traumatic, it is heartbreaking.
One of the greatest risks in loving someone deeply is that we may eventually lose that person. Your grief and love are both intrinsically linked and expected.
I believe strongly in the five stages of grief model, developed by the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
This model was influenced by clinicians who worked with terminally ill patients. However, it has proven to be applicable for many aspects of grief, including those clients processing the loss of a loved one.
It consists of the following stages:
Denial: Tragic events are often so shocking and difficult to accept that a person's default position is denial. They may deny the influence a loss has had on them, or even the fact that the event happened at all. This is an obvious defense mechanism but is usually quite temporary.
Anger: When something can't be properly explained, the tendency is to be of the opinion that this isn't fair and someone else must pay. Grief-stricken individuals are very often haunted by their extreme pain and unexpressed rage.
As anger needs to be placed somewhere, those who've recently lost a loved one frequently lash out at others, or blame or even harm themselves. Anger can feel very difficult to handle, but some degree of it is usually very necessary and helpful in the healing process. It makes the loss a reality.
Bargaining: Grieving people often try to cut a deal with "God" or "the powers that be within their given religion." Losing a loved one has been found to evoke or create a greater religious/spiritual fervor in a grieving individual. "I'll do anything to have this not have happened," or "I'll do anything to bring my loved one back." Invoking a religious/higher "force" or "being" can be momentarily healing for the living person, as it can sometimes provide a balm or "answer."
Depression: When the reality of the deceased loved one truly sets in, the grieving person can become completely hopeless and lost. The individual may even anticipate or desire his or her own demise.
Although this stage may cause one to become desolate and isolated, depression (even deeply felt) can be a very productive stage in the grieving process. The "depression" stage may involve tremendous sadness or a need to purposely avoid being part of the "active world." Yet, eventual acceptance and re-immersion into everyday life normally follows this period of intense mourning.
Acceptance: The individual now comes to terms with the loss. All feelings experienced in the past stages are still generally very present, but now there is knowledge that life continues. The mourner now sees that they will survive, and that their life is worth pursuing once again.
Every individual approaches these stages differently. They can bounce around from one to stage to another without warning and unexpectedly revert as well. Please remember as you're experiencing grief, all of these reactions are entirely normal, and healing "timeframes" for everyone will differ.
As your friend's death was very recent, your feelings are still extremely raw, any and all vulnerabilities felt should be expected.
It appears that you are in your depression stage, which makes complete sense given your timeframe. Accept that this will take time. Perhaps even see this mourning period as a way to honor your lifelong friendship.
Had I experienced the death of my best friend, all aspects of my life would be completely altered. I would have needed someone to help me "keep on keeping on."
I urge you to continue working with your therapist. Tell your therapist that you do not feel you are making any "progress" in the grief department. Maybe merely advocating for yourself will help move the process along.
Additionally, you may need to work with a different type of psychotherapist. Maybe one who specializes in bereavement and/or trauma.
Your life was put on pause when your buddy was taken from us. Allow yourself the time to grieve without judgment. You will move on, but it will be at a pace that cannot yet be determined.
Very brave of you to bare such a personal part of your life!!
Thank you very much and if I can be of any help in the future, please don't hesitate to reach out.
Send all questions to Ask Noah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a profitable and peaceful week,
Originally posted on thestreet.com -- 8/17/12
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