Is a natural response to loss.
It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. You may associate grief with the death of a loved one – and this type of loss does often cause the most intense grief. There is no time limit for grief – as long as you keep on moving through the different stages. Problems arise when people get stuck in one phase.
The 5 Stages of Grief
The Five Stages of grief, include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In no defined sequence, general individual experience of most of these stages occurs when faced with the reality of their impending death or that of a loved one. The reactions to illness, death, and loss are as unique as the person experiencing them.
1. Denial and Isolation
The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response.
The next emotion to surface is anger -and it may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family, or at our dying or deceased loved one. Although we know the person is not to blame, we feel guilty and even more angry at ourselves.
The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control–
- If only we had sought medical attention sooner…
- If only we got a second opinion from another doctor…
- If only we had tried to be a better person toward them…
We might be trying to make deals with God to reverse what happened.
Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a good cry and a hug.
Not everyone reaches this stage. It might take years to get to acceptance. We might accept the impending death of a loved one, or the death of a person. We also go through the same process to accept a failed romance or relationship.
It is important to go through the grief process, not around it. Acceptance will only come if you work through it.
Grief & Depression: what is the difference?
Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy as they share many symptoms, but there are ways to tell the difference. Grief is a multifaceted response. It involves a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even when you’re in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness. Depression sufferers have constant feelings of emptiness and despair.
Other symptoms that suggest depression, not just grief:
Intense, pervasive sense of guilt
Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
Slow speech and body movements
Inability to function at work, home, and/or school
Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
Anti-depressants: will they help me cope better with grief?
As a general rule, normal grief does not warrant the use of antidepressants. While medication may relieve some of the symptoms of grief, it cannot treat the cause, which is the loss itself. Furthermore, by numbing the pain that must be worked through eventually, antidepressants delay the mourning process.
IT’S BEEN YEARS… I am still grieving?
It’s normal to feel sad, numb, or angry following a loss. But as time passes, these emotions should become less intense as you accept the loss and start to move forward. If you aren’t feeling better over time, or your grief is getting worse, it may be a sign that your grief has developed into a more serious problem, such as complicated grief or major depression.
The sadness of losing someone you love never goes away completely, but it shouldn’t remain centre stage. If the pain of the loss is so constant and severe that it keeps you from resuming your life, you may be suffering from a condition known as complicated grief. Complicated grief is like being stuck in an intense state of mourning. You may have trouble accepting the death long after it has occurred or be so preoccupied with the person who died that it disrupts your daily routine and undermines your other relationships.
Symptoms of complicated grief :
Intense longing and yearning for the deceased
Intrusive thoughts or images of your loved one
Denial of the death or sense of disbelief
Imagining that your loved one is alive
Searching for the person in familiar places
Avoiding things that remind you of your loved one
Extreme anger or bitterness over the loss
Feeling that life is empty or meaningless
How to cope with grief
Never grief alone. If you are a person who are not comfortable to share your emotions under normal circumstances, it is important that you do so when you grief. When you share your feelings , your loss will become more bearable. Finding support can come from family, friends, your faith and church, support groups or a therapist or grief counsellor.
Take care of yourself
Grief is stresfull and emotionally draining. You need to take care of yourself physically and emotionally to successfully move through the stages.
Face your feelings. Avoiding the pain of grieving will prolong the process. Rather aknowledge the pain. It is okay to cry, be sad and talk about the deceased. Every time to allow yourself to feel and talk, you will half the pain.
Be creative. Expressing your feelings in a creative way is a good way to deal with them. You can write down the things you never got to say in a journal or make a scrapbook or photo album to remember the person by.
Look after your physical health. Exercise, eat healthy and get enough sleep. Don’t be tempted to turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with emotional pain. It might numb the pain for a few short hours- then the pain will be back. Rather deal with it soberly.
You have the right to grief. Let no one tell you to get over yourself and move on. Everyone grieves is differently. There is no specific time to it. Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgement.
Be aware of grief triggers. Anniversaries, holidays and milestones might make it harder cope with memories. Know that you might have these difficult times and plan ahead with family members how to cope with it.
How do you help a grieving person?
1. Listen with compassion.
It is not what you say, but how well you can listen. Never force a person to talk to you. Rather just ask: ”Do you feel like talking?” Be willing to sit in silence. Let them talk/share. Acknowledge all feelings. The bereaved person should feel free to cry, share and break down without any judgement from you. Offer comfort and support without minimizing the loss.
2. Comments to avoid:
- I know how you feel.
- It is part of God’s plan.
- Look what you can be thankful for.
- He is in a better place now.
- This is behind you now – it is time to get on with your life.
- Any statement that begins with ”you should” or ”you will”.
3. Be there for them.
Consistency is the key. Bereaved people often feel they are a burden to everyone. They prefer to hide away and try and work through it on their own. This prolongs grieving. If you can be there for as long as it takes, it will support them immensely. Examples of what you can do:
- Help with cooked meals/ shopping for groceries/ other errands.
- Help with funeral arrangements/ accommodating funeral guests.
- Help with picking up kids from school or taking care of them.
- Drive them around on errands.
- Take them for a tea, movie, lunch.
- Accompany them on a walk and chat.
- Help take care of pets/ doing laundry and house cleaning.
- Stay in touch long after the funeral – check in, drop by.
- Offer extra support on holidays or birthdays.
If a grieving person show signs of the following:
- Struggling to function normally in daily life
- Extreme focus on death
- Excessive bitterness, anger or guilt
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Addictive behaviour of some sort
- Withdrawal from life / inability to find enjoyment from life
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
Questions we can help with:
- How long does grief last?
- Will I ever stop crying?
- I feel like I’m going crazy. Is this normal?
- What are the signs of grief?
- How do I know I need help to move on?
- I feel very angry. How do I deal with it?
- Have I got the right to inflict my hurt on others?
If you think you might got stuck in grief – please chat to us.
Talk to a facilitator on the LIVE CHAT for help. It is a live text-based chat and you may stay anonymous. This is a free counselling service. It is online Sundays: 18h00-20h00/ Mondays – Thursdays from 19h00-21h00.
Book a Counselling Session
You can book counselling sessions with the following therapists:
This counselling session is a paid for service. A session can be a Face-to-face or a Skype session.