Dealing with Extreme Grief

Grief is something with which we all, except for a lucky few, will have to deal sooner or later. Extreme grief, such as I have recently experienced, will come to an unlucky few of us. My recent experience of extreme grief resulted from the accidental and unexpected death of my partner of 32+ years. This, I believe, is about as extreme as grief can get. Perhaps some of the people in Gaza right now are experiencing worse.

Six weeks or more later, I believe I am in a position to analyze rationally the early stages of grief – the stages which I have dubbed ‘extreme’ – and to give some pointers to anyone unfortunate enough to be similarly afflicted. Be warned. As I have discovered, it won’t be easy.

Do you imagine I’m a cold fish for being prepared to analyze my grief like this while I am supposedly still grieving? Believe me, I am still grieving . There is no ‘supposedly’ about it. You really would not want to feel like I feel right now. The act of writing about my grief is actually useful to me. It is cathartic.

Extreme grief has the potential to loosen your anchor to the real world. The anchor will drag, and you will be adrift amid a whole sea of false realities. Your problem now is to become re-anchored to the ‘real’ reality, before you react precipitously to one of the false realities, thereby making a bad situation worse. You are, in effect, suffering a mini-psychosis at this point.

My advice based on my recent experience is: do nothing at all radical during this period of re-anchoring. Restrain your impulse. If possible, find some routine task to occupy your mind while you are waiting for this to happen through natural healing processes. Which it will. It has for me.

The underlying grief will remain. It will likely remain for years, probably for life. But the delusional phase that comes with the extreme form of grief will hopefully be gone. You will now be able to think clearly and plan your life rationally. You will not lose people you thought were friends as a result of precipitate action.

I am not a psychologist. I am not a counsellor. I am just a person who has been through the worst kind of mill and believes he has some useful advice to share. I’m not trying to explain extreme grief to you. That would be an impossible task. Nobody can understand extreme grief unless they have actually been through it.

I hope it never comes your way but, if it does, my advice here may help you cope.