Grief / Loss

Grief : loss, mourning

“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”
E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly,

Grief – intense sorrow – is a natural response to loss, especially if caused by someone’s death.

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.  Break-up relationships and divorce also causes people to mourn loss – even in children.  There is no time limit for mourning – 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

Our reaction to grief is unique  – as unique as the person experiencing them. Generally the following 5 stages can be identified in by people who are grieving and they do not appear in a defined sequence: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Loss. The 5 stages should be seen as a process of learning to live without the one we lost.

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

Often the first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. Denial is triggered by a feeling of being overwhelmed and in shock by the news.  We block out the words and hide from the facts because it is too much to bear. This is a temporary response till reality sets in.

2. Anger

Another emotion that often surfaces is anger. It might be immediate or it might appear much later.  People’s anger may be aimed at themselves (guilt driven) – thinking they could have or should have prevented the death or loss. Or it is aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family, or at our dying or deceased loved one. This is despite knowing the person is not to blame.

3. Bargaining

Often people negotiate with God to rather take them (trading places) or they make promises what they would do if God only spared the dying or critically ill person’s life. Or:” if God can only intervene and stop my parents from getting a divorce.”

It is a normal reaction and the purpose of it is 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…
  • If only I said no when he asked to go out.
  • If only I had been a better behaved child – my parents wouldn’t be getting a divorce..
  • If only I did more to save my marriage…

We might be trying to make deals with God to reverse what happened.

4. Depression

The hurt and sadness that comes with loss at first is so deep and so painful that it might feel that it will never end. It feels if there is no way the intense pain will ever go away. The intense pain can cause people to feel they want to give up on life just to end the pain. The sadness and crying can take a long time to become softer – but it does eventually lose it’s intensity. You need to allow yourself to be sad and cry – God gave us tears for a reason – to heal. If you allow yourself to experience the emotions you will eventually move through the stage of sadness and depression. Periods of sadness will space out and later it will only return on special days of remembrance or with certain memories.

Usually 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.

5. Acceptance

Not everyone reaches this stage. There are many people who never forget and who never truly accept the loss.  For others it might take years to get to acceptance. We might accept the impending death of a loved one, or the death of a person, more easily if they are in severe pain or suffering as with cancer patients. On the other hand it might be more difficult to accept losing someone suddenly for example in a accident. We go through a grief process to accept a failed romance or relationship.

6. Finding meaning

Recently a sixth stage has been added by David Kessler. After the sudden loss of his son who was 21 years old David wrote a book on the 6th stage of grief, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. He says the following:

“meaning comes through finding a way to sustain your love for the person after their death while you’re moving forward with your life. Loss is simply what happens to you in life. Meaning is what you make happen.”

He states that healing often only takes place in the sixth stage. A person who lost a family member to suicide might find healing through starting a support group for parents who also lost someone to suicide. Or where a child died of a drug overdose an person might start a campaign against drug dealers and abuse in their community. The action they take helps to heal the wound of loss, gives sense to what happened and value to the deceased person’s life and death.

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 – delusions

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.


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

Self help

How to cope with grief

Get support.

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 stressfull and emotionally draining. You need to take care of yourself physically and emotionally to successfully move through the stages. Helpguide lists the following aspects as guidelines to cope with loss

Face your feelings. Avoiding the pain of grieving will prolong the process. Rather acknowledge the pain. It is okay to cry, be sad and talk about the deceased. Everytime you allow yourself to feel and talk, you lessen 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.

It’s not just ok for you to grieve – you have a 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.

How does one handle special days? 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.
4. Watch out for warning signs of unresolved grief.

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?

Helpline

chat-icon

 

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 remain anonymous.



Resources:

The 5 stages of grief

Take care of yourself as you grieve

Myths and facts about grief and grieving

Seek support for grief and loss



Share.

Comments are closed.