Life is a cycle and part of this cycle is loss. With loss comes grief which is a natural part of the healing process and which will eventually lead to recovery. There are a lot of causes of loss. But no matter the cause, dealing with a loss can be a very complicated and emotional time in a person’s life.
The death of a loved one or a close friend is only one of the many forms of loss in a person’s life. There are different kinds of loss and it is very personal to the one experiencing it. Other forms of loss are the loss of health, a long-held dream, a job and loss of financial security. Some grieve for a relationship breakup or the loss of a personal object. Less obvious losses, like leaving home or graduation from school, can still generate strong feelings of grief.
Traumatizing losses like accidents, crimes or suicides happen suddenly. In situations like these, the person has no time to prepare emotionally. The person becomes unsure of the predictability of life and loses his sense of security and confidence. As a result, the person may experience sleep disturbances, nightmares, social isolation, severe anxiety, or distressing thoughts. Predictable losses, such as those with fair warning like a terminal illness, sometimes allow the person time to prepare for the loss. Although this type of loss creates two layers of grief; anticipated grief and the actual grief related to the loss.
There is no specific time limit for grieving because grief is very subjective. Some people would like grief to be short and fast because it can be intense and painful. Unfortunately, it is a process and cannot be rushed. With time and support, it gets better. However, it is normal to feel the loss again on special dates of the year like birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. At times like these, taking care of oneself, acknowledging the feelings, seeking support and surrounding oneself with positive people will help.
It should be noted that grief is not linear and is experienced in cycles. It is often said to be similar to climbing a spiral staircase and the person feels like he is traveling in a never-ending circle, when in fact he is actually improving. One should realize that patience is essential while undergoing the process and allowing one’s feelings to be expressed without judgment. But if you feel that you are ‘stuck’ in the grief, talking with a counselor or a supportive person may help nudge you forward.
There are normal reactions to grief. When grieving, it is expected that you feel like you are ‘going crazy’, of course remorseful and unable to concentrate. Often you might feel irritable or angry at others, at God, at yourself, or at the one you lost. Most people feel frustrated, anxious, afraid, ambivalent, numb and even guilty.
Grief is a process that consists of steps. According to various authors, there are stages that the grieving person goes through. According Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, grief is characterized by 5 stages, namely Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, until finally Acceptance. Alan Wolfeit states that there are “Mourning Needs” which include acknowledging the reality of the loss, embracing the pain of the loss, remembering the person who has gone, developing a new sense of identity and then searching for meaning and receiving support from others.
Understanding of the grieving process differs from one person to another because it depends on the cultural background of the one experiencing it. Some cultures have a so-called ‘time to grieve’ and have developed rituals to help people get though it. Grief is a universal sentiment and the support from other people tells the person that he is not alone. These rituals usually occur during special times of the year like wakes, anniversaries, birthdays or holidays. Grieving rituals are deeply rooted in the cultures of a lot of people. It is an expression of grief, to acknowledge the pain and to offer support and reaffirmation of life.
Each one of us has his own style in coping with loss. Some may talk to friends and families, exercise, eat, read poetry or books. Others seek spiritual support; join a support group and social activities. Others still just lay back and let themselves feel the grief in its full form. When one is new to grief, one could experiment and come up with a style of ones own. But only you know what coping skills are best for your personality and lifestyle.
Your Independent guide to Grief and Loss