Understanding Grief

Loss is a part of our life: unavoidable.  At some point in life, we all lose or will lose someone close to our heart that we love dearly.  Grief is the response to our loss, a natural process that includes a mixture of emotions that we experience during this difficult time.  A loss of a friend, family member, pet, a divorce, a break-up, being diagnosed with an illness, a miscarriage, or even moving to a new city.  These are all forms of loss that include the grieving process.  Some people react to their loss in shock, non-acceptance, mourning, etc.  It is a forced life transaction – something hugely important to you has been taken away from you!

How We Grieve?

 

Everyone is different, and so is grief.  Sometimes, the grieving process takes years.  If you find yourself asking the question, “why am I like this?”, then know this: the way you grieve is very normal; the way you feel, the way you’re behaving, the way you’re dealing with anything around you is normal.  

How do we grieve?  Kubler-Ross suggested grief has five stages in terms of how people experience loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Let’s expand on the stages to get an understanding of each.

Denial.  A loss can be very overwhelming, with strong emotional, physical, and mental reactions experienced.  Some of us are in denial and shock because we are in survival mode. It happens organically. Y our body shuts you down to keep you safe.

Anger.  Anger is a powerful emotion, as underneath anger lies other emotions and pain.  You can be angry at yourself, other people, friends, things related to your loss, etc.  Being angry is a process of grief, and it can help with healing.  Still, it is really important to become aware of your anger and allow yourself to get in touch with your anger concerning your loss. It can be tempting to try and distance yourself from anger and avoid feelings the full force of this potent emotion. To pretend it is not there, even, and that everything is fine. Alternatively many people find this sidestep feeling their anger at their loss by projecting anger outwards and taking anger out of others – resulting in arguments with partners, friends or others. On this way anger can negatively affect relationships.

Bargaining.  After a loss, you will search for pieces and try to put things back together. You wish things could have been different and may well wonder why the loss happened.  You may find yourself hoping you will wake up one day and find everything is back how it used to be! Sometimes people pray to God to bring their loved ones back and promising that they’ll do anything in exchange.  If you have felt that and thought “am I going crazy?”  Well, no, you are not!  It is to be expected as a result of the absence that your loss has left in you.  Some people treasure places and things that remind them of a person they have lost – places you’ve visited together and things you did together.  This can help a person to try to find some sign that can helps make sense of the loss.

Depression.  Feeling low, lacking motivation, or becoming dysfunctional is where the grief of loss is more present.  Many people don’t like to be in this stage, and may judge themselves, e.g., “I shouldn’t feel like this”, “I shouldn’t be like this”, “I hope others don’t see that in me”, etc.  All I want to say is, allow yourself to feel those emotions.  It is ok and normal to experience depression.  But I encourage you to start an activity, a course, a yoga class, anything that you find interesting and keep you focused.

Acceptance.  Acceptance of a loss doesn’t mean the pain is gone.  When asked “how long will I grieve for”, David Kessler, grief expert, replies: “you’ll grief as long your loved one is dead”.  In other words, you will always grieve as a loss is forever.  So don’t beat yourself up if it’s been 5 or 10 years.  Don’t chastise yourself by saying “I should stop grieving and stop missing the person!”  Acceptance is witnessing the grieving process and understanding that your loved one is gone physically, but you have a treasure trove of memories.

David Kessler also suggests finding meaning in loss.  This is about moving forwards.  Honouring your loss that has had this impact on you means you cared, loved, and you always will. Those whom we have lost will be in our hearts even though they are not physically with us anymore. We must find meaning and move forward.  You need to remember you are an alive individual with normal human needs.  Finding meaning will help you to be happy, find peace, and enjoy life’s treats.

If you are experiencing the pain of grief, I strongly encourage you to see a therapist.  Even if your loss was years ago, consider accessing professional help.  The emotions of grief may have been stored for too long and sometimes, as a result, we develop different mental health conditions, e.g., depression, anxiety, etc.  We must validate our feelings, emotions and address them.  In my next blog, I will talk about “the unprocessed emotions, and the impact on our well-being”.