As human beings, experiencing the loss of loved ones and close ones at some point in life can be natural. Though it’s natural and sometimes mandatory at some point in life, doesn’t mean that there is no or trivial pain that we can overlook or undermine the feeling the loss causes; it is an intense emotional suffering when someone or something you love is taken away!
The pain we encounter may be unbearable, we sometimes wonder if the pain would ever go or be at peace. Grief is that feeling of losing our loved or closed one that surrounds us, and sometimes act as our social support and be a part of our identity. Grief or bereavement is overwhelming, this includes all kinds of unexpected emotions, such as shock, inability to believe, profound sadness, guilt, fear, etc. People tend to be irritable and angry faster. Moreover, physical health is also affected for some, such as low appetite, sleepless nights, unclear thoughts, etc, unfortunately experiencing all these are normal. The intensity of the loss often depends on how the person is connected to the loss; his/her background, beliefs, attachment, etc
Not only death that causes grief but any loss such as separation, divorce, miscarriage, deteriorating health, retirement, job loss, loss of financial stability, loss of family, home, friendships, trigger painful emotions. Though we may see all these happening around us and consider them as normal, people struggle to get back to their lives due to the new adjustment and adaptation. This usually takes time as the individual has to mend the whole lifestyle accordingly, either out of choice or as his mode of coping with the loss. A significant loss in the family may shake the system and roles of others surviving around them.
Having said that, the Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, described the process of grief in five distinct stages. Not every individual goes through all the phases step by step, they can always bounce back, get stuck in any particular stage or even be a rollercoaster of ups and downs.
Soon after a loss, the first emotion that swirls up is:
1. Denial: The Stage of shock or denial which is mostly short-lived. This is a phase during which one puts on a temporary defense mechanism and takes time to process certain disturbing news or reality. One may not want to believe what is happening and that it is happening to him/her. It can bring about a dip in productivity and the ability to think and act. After the initial shock subsides, one may experience denial and may remain focused on the past. Some people tend to remain in a state of denial for a long time and may lose touch with reality.
2. Anger: When the realization finally hits, and one understands the gravity of the situation, he/she may become angry and may look for someone to blame. Anger can be manifested or expressed in many ways. While some take out the anger on themselves, others may direct it towards others around them. While some may be angry at life in general, others may blame the economy. One always tends to remain irritable, frustrated, and short-tempered during this stage.
3. Bargaining: When the stage of anger passes away, one may start thinking about ways to postpone the inevitable and try to find out the best thing left in the situation. Those who are not faced by death but by another trauma may try to negotiate in the situation and come to a point of compromise. Bargaining may help to come to a sustainable solution and might bring some relief to those who are moving close to what they wish to avoid altogether. The search for a different outcome or a less traumatic one may remain on during this stage.
4. Depression: Depression is a stage in which the person tends to feel sadness, fear, regret, guilt, and other negative emotions. He/she may have completely given up by now and may now reach a dead-end from where the road only seems dark. One may display signs of indifference, reclusiveness, pushing others away, and zero excitement towards anything in life. This may seem like the lowest point in life with no way ahead. Some common signs of depression include sadness, low energy, feeling demotivated, losing trust in God, etc.
5. Acceptance: When people realize that fighting the change that is coming into their life is not going to make the grief go away, they resign to the situation and accept it completely. The resigned attitude may not be a happy space but is one in which the person may stop resisting change and move ahead with it.
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Now, How do we Cope
- Facing our feelings and acknowledging them seem like too much at the beginning, but suppressing or avoiding them will not help you. Confusion and hopelessness can entangle the mind and body and take a longer time to feel relieved. Grief when not adapted and coped properly leads to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other health issues.
- Thoughts of not expressing our emotions because of others are not a healthy adaptation. On the other hand, feeling for the loved one through expressing, talking, and sharing our emotions can make you feel light and contained. Journaling your thoughts is another form of venting out our emotional turbulence
- Allow yourself some time to process and recover, to not make the loss and the emotions complicated.
- Taking forward the wishes of the demised and meeting the people whom they liked can give you a sense of control and support
- We are all unique, so does the feelings we go through. Therefore never give an ear to the people who advise you what and how to feel. Feel free and be genuine to your own mind and validate with the people who completely can hold and understand you, as people may seem weird in the process of consoling and may give lame advice.
- Last but not the least, consider seeking professional help when doubt your functionality is being affected.