“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,
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.
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