03 November 2014

Grief And Loss

Grief And Loss of A Loved One

When you lose someone or something close to you, it’s completely natural to feel pain and grief. The grief process is normal, and most people will go through it … in all of it’s stages. Here’s a guide as to what we should all expect to experience when we lose a loved one.

First, we have to ask and explain what exactly is grief?

Grief is a natural response to death or loss. The grieving process is an opportunity to appropriately mourn a loss, and then begin the journey towards healing. The process is easier to understand when you acknowledge grief, find support, and allow time for grief to run it’s natural course.

Each year, between 5% and 9% of the population loses a close family member. But that’s not the only kind of loss that can cause grief. People can feel loss when:

They become separated from a loved one, losing a job, position, or income, your pet dies or runs away, children leave home, major changes in life such as getting a divorce, moving, or retiring. The list could be endless.

While we all feel grief and loss, each of us is unique in the ways that we cope with our feelings. Some people have healthy coping skills. They’re able to feel grief without losing sight of their daily responsibilities. Other folks don’t have the coping skills or support they need. That hinders the grieving process, and makes it even more difficult to get through it.

Our Reactions To Grief And Loss:

There are highly specific stages of grief. They reflect common reactions that people have as they try and make sense out of a tragic loss. An important part of the entire healing process is feeling and accepting the emotions that will manifest as a result of the loss.

Here are the most common stages of grief that people will go through:

The Shock of Denial: Denial is a normal reaction to a death or loss and should never be confused with “not caring.” This stage of grief helps protect us from experiencing the intensity of the loss. It can be useful when we have to take some action, such as planning a funeral, notifying relatives, or reviewing important papers. As we move through the experience and slowly acknowledges its impact, the initial denial and disbelief fades.

The Bargaining Stage: This stage of grief may be marked by persistent thoughts about what “could have been done” to prevent the death or loss. Some people become obsessed with thinking about specific ways things could have been done differently to save the person’s life or to have prevented the loss. If this stage of grief isn’t dealt with and resolved, the person may live with intense feelings of guilt or anger that can interfere with the entire healing process.

Signs of Depression: In this stage, we begin to realize and feel the true extent of the death or loss. Common signs of depression in this stage include trouble sleeping, poor appetite, fatigue, lack of energy, and emotional outbursts. We may also have self-pity and feel lonely, isolated, empty, lost, and anxious.

The Anger: This stage is very common. It usually happens when we feel helpless and powerless. Anger can stem from a feeling of abandonment because of a death or loss. Sometimes we’re angry at a higher power (God/Source) according to our belief systems, at the doctors who were charged with the care for a lost loved one, or we may become angry toward life in general.

Acceptance Stage: Over the course of time, we can come to terms with all the emotions and feelings that we experienced when the death or loss took place. Healing can begin once the loss becomes integrated into our set of life experiences.

Throughout our lives, we may return to some of the earlier stages of grief, such as depression or anger. Because there are no rules or time limit to the grieving process, everyone’s healing process will be different. There are no time limitations or expectations. We will waiver between all of these phases until we reach the point of accpetance. It is important to remember, just as a physical injury will heal over time but leave a scar, so it is with an emotional wound. Healing will come, but there will always be a scar as a reminder. Think of the wonderful memories, and know that there is Life after Life.

Just a thought …

~Justin Taylor, ORDM., OCP., DM.