When someone we love passes away or we lose something very dear to us, we are gripped by great sorrow and go through many uncomfortable emotions. We may even convince ourselves that the pain and sorrow associated with loss will never go away.
These are very normal reactions that one experiences in case of loss. It is important to understand that when one feels an immense void inside after experience a great loss, there are not right or wrong feelings. One needs to face these feelings however with confidence and courage that it is a phase and that it will eventually pass.
But, despite the harsh reality of loss, there are good ways that can help a person face this grief with courage and determination. There are effective therapies that over time help get over such difficult, moments. These therapies start by showing what the real phenomenon of loss is and how it works.
What is grief?
Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional pain we feel when someone or something we love is taken away from us. The greater the loss, the greater the grief. We often associate grief with the death of a loved one, but grief can come from a variety of reasons, such as:
- When a relationship ends
- Loss of a pet
- When feeling unwell
- Loss of an important target in life
- Losing a job
- When someone close to us is sick
- Financial loss
- End of a friendship
- Insecurity after a trauma
- Sale of one’s home
The way a person deals with grief is somewhat personal and it differs from others because it depends on many factors that also includes the person’s personality, the way the person reacts to stressful situations, past experiences, faith and also the reason of the loss. It is important to note that there is no deadline or time table for the duration to grieving but each individual takes the time needed according to one’s need to grief. We need to give enough time to ourselves for this process to pass as natural as possible without rushing to get over it by brushing the pain aside.
What are the stages of grief?
In 1969, the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced what is known as the famous five stages of grief which are:
- Denial: ‘This cannot be happening to me’ – it is only normal that when we receive bad news and we feel distraught by grief, we deny what we are going through at that time.
- Anger: ‘Why is this happening? Whose fault is it?’ – many times we end up venting out our anger on people who sometimes have nothing to do with the situation. Sometimes we even vent our anger towards the person who has just passed away and left us on our own. What happens here is that we feel guilty for being angry and such anger generates more anger.
- Bargaining: ‘If You heal this person, I will reciprocate’ – for a person to try and gain control over the situation, such example is when we turn to God and ask Him to heal a friend of ours or a relative and offer something in return even if we know that there is nothing that can be done to heal the person.
- Depression: ‘The pain is so unbearable, I cannot get myself to move on in life’ – When we experience great loss, it is only normal that we pass through an extremely sad period and lose all interest in what used to give pleasure before such a loss. We also go through a phase where we do not want to see anyone or speak to anyone and would feel better if confined in our own space. However, it is very important that if we remain in this state of self-isolation for a long period of time, or else grief is escalating rather than diminishing by time, we must seek professional help to treat severe depression.
- Acceptance: ‘I accepted what happened and I will now move on’ – During this stage, we start dealing with the situation and accept that there is nothing more we can do to change the situation. Unfortunately, not everyone manages to reach this stage.
The common symptoms of grief
Whilst grief is expressed in many different ways, depending on the individual, many times people experience common symptoms such as:
- Shock – not able to believe what we are experiencing at the moment
- Sadness – this is the most common symptom we experience when passing through grief.
- Guilt – We start feeling guilty for not having done more or maybe for not having said what should have been said.
- Anger – Most times anger is not aimed at anyone in particular but it is just the anger felt towards the situation.
- Fear – When we pass through a period of grief, there is the sense of fear for the future.
- Physical Symptoms – When going through the grief period, we can experience exhaustion, nausea, weight loss or weight gain, insomnia and constant pain.
How can we deal with grief?
Two fundamental things we need to keep in mind is that when we are passing through grief, we must seek support and take care of ourselves.
It is extremely important not to go through this period on our own. We need to turn to other beloved family members and friends to help us deal with what we are going through during that moment. It’s true that most of the times we would want to be left alone but the fact that we have a close person to us during that moment, will surely help. Another way that can help us during the grieving period is by joining a support group. By sharing our experience with others who can understand exactly what we are feeling because they are also going through the same feelings, will help us heal quicker. However, if we see that none of this helps, we should seek professional advice to help us make it through this phase. We must never think that seeking professional advice is a sign of weakness.
When we are going through grief, self-care is extremely important since this is a period where we lose most of our energy and our immune system plummets. We have to face our emotions because if these are suppressed within us, they might serve more harm than good. We should never let other people dictate how we should feel or force us to feel how they think is best. We should express our emotions freely and truly, whether it’s by crying or by laughing. We should never be ashamed of our ways of expressing ourselves when we are going through the phases of grief. During this period, it should be irrelevant of what others think or say about us during this time. This is a time when we should be surrounded by people who truly understand our emotions and are genuinely there for us to help us make it through this rough time in our lives.