When someone close to us passes away it can be a very painful time in our lives, where we are overwhelmed with a flood of varying, and sometimes confusing, emotions.
Grieving is a natural process. It is important to understand, however, that everyone grieves a bit differently and in their own time. There is no one “right way” to do it.
August 30th is National Grief Awareness Day, an opportunity to raise awareness about the process of grief and offer support to those who are suffering.
More about loss
The way an individual responds to the death of a loved one depends, in part, on their personality and the relationship they had with their loved one. Losing a distant uncle might be experienced very differently from losing a favorite grandparent.
Some believe that grieving should occur for a momentary time in response to a loss, such as when they shed tears during a loved one’s funeral. But, in truth, mourning needs time and encompasses the complete emotional process of coping with a loss. It actually begins in the moment we first become aware that a loss is coming. From there, the process involves a wide range of feelings, behaviors, and expressions that all work together to help us survive losing someone dear.
Stages of grief
When grieving, people often question how long it will take before they will be able to feel some relief and life will begin to feel “normal” again. Unfortunately, there are no clear answers to these questions
What is helpful to know is that grief sometimes moves in typical stages or phases. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, MD, a Swiss-American psychiatrist identified these five primary stages from her extensive work with terminally ill patients and their families:
This initial stage occurs when the very idea of losing our loved one is more than we can bear, so our mind finds ways to “deny” it is happening. We think perhaps the doctors have mis-diagnosed our loved one. Or we pretend things are not as serious as they really are. We can experience denial after death as well. This is the stage of grief when reality is slowly sinking in.
The next stage is often anger. It might be anger at the medical staff, Aunt Joan who didn’t make it to the funeral, yourself for unkind words said, even at our loved one for leaving us behind. It too is a perfectly normal part of the grieving process and at this stage can feel somewhat less vulnerable and painful than the emotions yet to come.
Next comes our attempts to bargain for a different outcome. We feel so helpless and are in such pain, we are willing to do anything. We might turn to a Higher Power and prayer. “God I promise I will go to church every Sunday if you will just save my wife.” We are having to face the finality and come to understand the loss is beyond our control.
At some point the full weight of the loss descends upon us and we feel the great sadness, the tearfulness, the loneliness, the agony. Many isolate more during this stage. For many, this is the longest stage in the process.
The final stage in the grieving process is acceptance. Acceptance does not mean the pain is no longer felt. The absence of our loved ones will always be felt. But rather, over time the pain becomes less sharp, the focus is more on the sweet memories, we accept the loss is final and allow ourselves to begin to create a new life with new memories. Maybe most importantly of all, we come to understand that we can survive what we earlier thought we could never bear.
It should be noted that moving through the stages can feel like an up-and-down roller coaster ride. A person might shift back and forth between stages. Or, for example, after feeling better for a period of time, a flood of sadness might be felt at anniversary dates.
How can Signature Health Services help?
We understand how difficult it is to face losing a loved one and are here to support you in whatever way we can. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk with a grief counselor or a therapist who specializes in depression. Our team can provide you with names of trusted therapists in our area–just give us a call!
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