What is Grief?

When thinking about grief it common to associate grief to the loss of a loved one, but grief can be experienced at other times such as:

  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Losing a job
  • Loss of finances
  • A miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of hopes and dreams
  • A loved one’s serious illness
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Loss of safety after trauma
  • Moving away to a different place

Stages of grief.

Grief is an individual experience and how you grieve depends on so many factors such as your personality, self-coping mechanisms, the circumstances surrounding the loss, your faith and how significant the loss was to you.  Kubler-Ross identified 5 stages of grief;

  • Denial:“How can I go on”. This is a survival mechanism that helps us pace our grief.
  • Anger:“Why did this have to happen”. Anger has no limits. It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died, but also to God. Anger is a familiar emotion and something we can connect to.
  • Bargaining: “I will do anything for them to come back”. This is where you use bargain as a way to not have to experience the pain you are going through.
  • Depression:“I am heart broken and too sad to do anything”. This is where you feel that the sadness will last forever.  The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and this is a normal and appropriate response.
  • Acceptance/adjustment: “I accept what happened and I can move forward”. This stage is about accepting the reality and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it.

When experiencing grief some people may not go through all of the stages of grief, and some people may revisit stages at a later time in their life.  Grief has been described as a wave-like pattern where the intensity changes and the frequency should lessen over time.

How to cope with grief.

To help you cope and manage the grieving process, here are some effective strategies that may help you:

  • Self Compassion; is the willingness to support ourselves so that we can face our pain. Trying to avoid feelings will only prolong the grieving process.  It can be tempting to try to run away when life gets difficult (an example of this would be turning to drugs), but it is only by facing our pain that we can begin to heal.
  • Cry: Tears are a natural response to emotional pain so don’t feel embarrassed.Give yourself permission to cry, it’s nature’s stress relief.
  • Turn to friends or family members for support; some people feel like they don’t want to burden others, but it is important that you sought comfort and help from others.
  • Express your feelings in a creative way; Write a letter to a loved one about things you didn’t get to tell them, make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life, get involved in a cause that you feel strongly about.
  • Look after your physical health; Eating right, getting enough sleep and exercise will help your body to be able to cope with the stress and emotions.
  • Join a support group; Although you may initially want to be on your own connecting with other people who are going through a similar kind of experience can be healing and nurturing.

When to seek help.

Coping with grief can be a long process and this can be normal, but you should contact a professional when you;

  • Feel like there is no point to living
  • Blame yourself for the loss and for failing to prevent it
  • You can’t get out of bed
  • Aren’t able to perform daily activities
  • Feeling numb and disconnected for more than a few weeks.

Written by: Kimberley Aguet