There’s nothing quite as painful as losing a loved one, and anyone who’s gone through it will tell you that they went through a whole range of difficult emotions. Many that have had such an experience will also tell you that they felt like the pain and sadness would never let up. Although there is no right or wrong way to grieve a loss, there are numerous ways of coping with the pain and eventually moving on.
What Is Grief?
Grief is a natural emotional response to some sort of loss in life. You feel it when something or someone you love is taken from you. The more devastating the loss, the more intense your grief will be. Although grief is primarily associated with the loss of a loved one, there are many different kinds of loss. Some of the things that you can lose resulting in grief are:
• A relationship or marriage
• Good health
• A job
• Financial Stability
• A pet
• A cherished dream
• A loved one’s good health
• A Friendship
• Safety after a trauma
• The family home
All of the above can be significant events in a person’s life, however even a subtle loss can lead to grief. A good example of this is when a person first leaves home or retires from a career they truly loved.
Key Point: It’s Different for Everyone
No two people grieve in the same way. The individual grieving process is dependent on numerous factors, such as personality, coping style, life experience and faith. The nature of the loss is also part of the equation. One thing that holds true for everyone is that grieving takes time, and there’s no fixed timetable for the amount of time a person should or shouldn’t spend grieving. Depending on the loss, some will begin to feel better in a matter of weeks or months, whereas it takes others years to overcome their grief. Regardless of the loss you experience, the key thing is to be patient with yourself and allow the process to unfold naturally.
Common Grief Myths Debunked
Myth: Ignoring the pain will make it go away faster.
Fact: Ignoring or suppressing the pain you’re feeling will only make your suffering worse in the long run. Employ a head-on approach to deal with your grief.
Myth: Strength in the face of loss is important.
Fact: If you feel sad, frightened or lonely, show it to your love ones. You needn’t ‘protect’ them by putting on a mask. Let them help you by being honest with them.
Myth: A lack of tears means that you aren’t saddened by a loss.
Fact: Crying isn’t the only response to grief. In fact, someone that sheds just a few tears over a loss is likely to be feeling it just as deeply as anyone else affected by it.
Myth: Your grief should be over in about a year.
Fact: There’s no fixed timetable for grieving, nor should anyone ever attempt to create one.
The Five Stages of Grief
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was the very first person to establish the concept of the five stages of grief. She came up with the idea after studying the feeling of patients facing terminal illness, but it has since been applied to other significant losses in life. Here they are:
1. Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
2. Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
3. Bargaining: “Make this stop happening, and in return I will ____.”
4. Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
5. Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”
Note that you do not have to go through each stage of grief in order to heal. In fact, there are numerous people that don’t go through any of these stages. As for the ones that do, they don’t necessarily go through them in a neat, sequential order.
Common Signs of Grief
Shock and disbelief – Difficulty accepting the loss in the immediate aftermath of it happening
Sadness – Profound sadness is the most widely-recognized sign of grief. This is associated with feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness.
Guilt – Grief is often associated with feelings or what was or wasn’t done in regard to the loss being experienced. For instance, if someone has passed away after a long and painful illness and you felt relief, you may feel guilty. Similarly, if you feel like you didn’t do what you had to to prevent the death, you may feel guilty about not having done enough.
Anger – Anger, together with resentment, can often arise in relation to a loss, and this is even in instances when there is no one at fault for it. Your anger could be directed toward a loved one, yourself, or even the person you lost for abandoning you. The need to appropriate blame for the injustice done to you can be very strong.
Fear – Feeling of anxiety, helplessness, insecurity, and even panic attacks can be triggered by a loss. It can trigger fears regarding your own mortality, having to face life in light of the loss, or facing previously shared responsibilities alone.
Physical Symptoms – Although we tend to think of grief as an emotional process, there are numerous physical problems that can present themselves, such as fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches, pains, and insomnia.
What You Should Do After a Loss
Turn to friends and family – You should lean on friends and family in your time of need, even if you’re a proud and self-sufficient individual. Do tell them what you need, whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or help to make funeral arrangements.
Look to your faith – Should you happen to follow a religious faith, you should embrace the comfort you can garner from its mourning rituals. Any spiritual activity that you find meaningful, such as prayer, meditation, or attending church, can offer you the solace you need.
Join a support group – Even if you have plenty of loved ones around to help you deal with your grief, you can still find dealing with it very lonely. Look up support groups in your area so that you can connect with others that have been through similar experiences.
Talk to a therapist or grief counselor – If you’re dealing with overbearing grief, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. You can either go to an experienced therapist or grief counselor to help you work through your intense emotions and overcome any obstacles that may be getting in the way of your grieving process.
Face your feelings – Whatever you do, you must not attempt to suppress your grief, otherwise you’re never going to be able to overcome it. Face your feelings head on, and keep in mind that unresolved grief can lead to anxiety, substance abuse, depression, and other health problems.
Express your feelings creatively – If you have a journal, write about the loss that you’ve experienced. You could make a scrapbook or photo album in tribute to the person’s life, or get involved in an organization that was dear to their heart.
Look after your health – Although it might be tempting to use some form of substance as a crutch for the emotions you’re feeling, you really should avoid doing so. Get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise, rather than using substances to numb yourself or artificially lift your mood.
Don’t listen to others about how you “should” be feeling – Always keep in mind that your grief is no-one else’s but your own. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s time to move on, or get over it. It’s okay to feel how you feel, regardless of the emotion.
Plan ahead for grief “triggers” – Keep any special days, such as anniversaries, holidays, or milestones in mind because they can reawaken memories and feelings. An emotional “wallop” on these occasions is completely normal, so prepare for it. If you share such a special day with a relative, you should think about collectively honoring the person you loved.
Content Source: Help Guide
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