What is Grief?
Grief is a response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone who has died or something that has been lost to which a bond or affection was formed. Although the process of grief is conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioural, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions.
When we lose a love one our individual reaction is different, some persons are subdued in their reaction whilst others immediately respond with spontaneity and show emotions by crying or some level of sadness. Some individuals may display delayed reaction to the news of the loss of a loved one and later have expressions of grief that reflect the stages experienced when coping with the loss.
Overcoming grief will differ for each person however, it is recommended that persons who experiences grief be surrounded by people who care about their well-being and can bring some level of comfort to them. At times more in-depth assistance maybe required; the individual may need professional help. Relatives who are close to the persons in grief are the ones to recognise there is a need for help and put the necessary measures in place to ensure that the person receives the necessary assistance.
Stages of Grief:
Shock and Denial
Pain and Guilt
Anger and Bargaining
Depression, Reflection, Loneliness
The Upward Turn
Reconstruction and Working Through
Acceptance and Hope
Shock and Denial – Is the two first stage reaction to the loss of a loved one especially so if the deceased person was not ailing. Sudden death is often most difficult to come to terms with. We see it almost every day when a life is lost through an accident, heart failure or murder. Our reaction to receiving the information is one of numbed disbelief. We deny the reality of the loss to avoid the pain, shock is followed by spontaneous emotional protection to prevent the mind from being overwhelmed immediately by information of the death of a loved one. Our mind goes into a state of protection until it is comfortable to interpret and accept the reality of the information received.
Pain and Guilt – When we allow ourselves the opportunity to face the reality of the loss, this next stage steps in. Pain because of the realisation that someone whom we love and adored has passed on. Guilt because of unresolved issues we may have had with them. These confused and mixed feeling are necessary, and we should allow ourselves to experience them because they form part of coming to terms with, the reality of death and opens the door to facilitate healing. One should however not be tempted to use substances such as alcohol, drugs or cigarettes to get them through this period because the possibility of addiction could occur and in the long term create unwanted additional issues with which to deal.
Anger and Bargaining – Pain and guilt can lead to anger, it is easy to become frustrated over the loss of a loved one and we may question why that loved one had to died and not someone else. We may even query why it was us instead of another person. At this stage there are several unresolved issues that you may have bottled up inside and they can fill you with guilt. You may rally against faith and bargain with “the powers that be” for a way out of your despair… this stage allows the individual the opportunity on their own terms to move towards acceptance of the loss.
Depression, Reflection and Loneliness – These are measured responses of someone dealing with the issue of loss after the funeral and getting on with life. Friends and family may encourage you to get on with living, on the other hand you are picking the pieces up and moving on at your own pace. You are now coming to terms with the loss suffered and living the lonely life without that companion, relative, child etc. Depression may step in, and you may isolate yourself from others to understand your feelings. Reflecting on the positive aspects of the relationship you shared with the deceased and things that were done together can add to the despair and loneliness. Additionally, at this stage one should pay attention to their physical and emotional health needs. Depression can lead to loss of appetite, self-confinement and a general sense of fatigue and listlessness.
The Upward Turn – Your life eventually will start to become adjusted to living without the departed loved one. At this point you will become calmer and can now focus on aspects of your life that were neglected. Your physical symptoms will improve, and to your depressed state will in turn give way to rational thinking.
Reconstruction and Work Through – Mourning for the loss of a loved one should not be allowed to become a process that keeps you stagnated. As time passes there will be lapses in important things which affects your life in a negative way. You must become functional again and learn how to live life without that loved one in your life. It may not be as easy to accomplish but, one need to find realistic solutions to the problems posed by the absence of the loved one lost.
Acceptance and Hope – At this stage you learn to accept and deal with the realities of your situation. Acceptance does not mean instant gratification however, it is an indication that you are coming to terms with your situation and will be making strives to ensure you return to a reasonable functional state. Hope comes when you acknowledge that life goes on and a life was lived before the tragedy. Returning to the lifestyle experienced prior to your tragedy depends on your acceptance and willingness to keep moving forward. Remember time is a great healer and with time we all can eventually move forward.
Coping with Grief
Get involved: Keeping yourself occupied by joining a group for example a craft or cooking class. One can also join a community group one that was supported by your loved one perhaps. Activities such as this can help keep empty spaces filled with fulfilling activities
Letting go of the past: Do not be afraid to reach out for help from family members and friends, they are an essential support system on whom you can depend
Taking care of you: Remember to also be concerned about you, grief can take a toll on your overall health therefore, exercise and eating healthy will contribute positively to your general well-being.
Coping: Whilst grieving is normal, it is important to remember that for you, life continues and there are others around who needs your support and your love.
Encourage the children: Children deal with grief in their own way, encourage them to make drawings or write what they are feeling and place these on their beds or on the refrigerator door; these are pleasant reminders
Activity: Get involved in an activity that can preserve the memory of your loved one for example an organization too which they belonged or a sport the was enjoyed by them. Offer to donate prizes or become a member to keep their memory in a positive light.