Monday, February 1, 2016

Dealing with Grief

girl dealing with grief
Dealing with grief is a process of acceptance

Grief is the response to losing someone to death. All of us understand that death and loss of a loved one is a part of life. However, the reality of death often leads to feelings of shock, sadness and confusion. Acute grief occurs in the immediate aftermath of the loss. It is intensely painful characterised by sadness, crying, constant thoughts of the deceased, disturbed sleep, appetite and disinterest in one’s own self and others. In a majority of cases, this is followed by integrated or abiding grief in which memories of the loved one mingle with sadness and longing but it does not persistently occupy the mind or disrupt normal day-to day activities.
“Well, everyone can master a grief but he that has it.”
William Shakespeare. Much Ado About Nothing. III.ii.25

Loss through death affects each of us differently. How one feels depends on the nature and circumstances of the loss, one’s beliefs and religion, age, relationships and one’s own physical and mental health. A sudden or violent death, death of a child or loss of a long-time spouse are always more difficult to accept. If the relationship with the departed person was difficult, the grief is more complicated and may take more time to work through.

Stages of grief

5 stages of the grieving process has been described. The stages do not necessarily come in order, nor are all the stages experienced by every person. One may return or go through one or the other stage several times before acceptance of the loss.Grief is a process and not just a state. During the process of grieving and bereavement a person may experience many emotions during the course of bereavement- helplessness, anger, sadness, denial, despair and yearning are common.
Denial
The first stage is the stage of denial ('It's not true’; ‘There must be some mistake.’) This is a normal defence mechanism which helps to cushion the immediate shock.
Anger
Once the reality sinks in, the pain is often redirected and expressed as anger. ‘Why me?’; ‘Its not fair’; ‘How can this happen to me’; are the common reactions in this phase. Anger may be directed towards objects, strangers, the doctors or family members, God; or even towards the deceased person- ‘How could you leave me alone?’
Bargaining
A promise of good behaviour or an attempt to strike a bargain (‘I will always listen to you’, ‘I will never worry you again,)’ is often the reaction at this stage.
Depression
Sadness and regret are mingled and one may often say ‘There is no point in life; - I may as well die too’.
Acceptance
At this stage emotions are stable and calm.

Strategies for dealing with grief 

Though each one copes differently, the following strategies may help you cope with your feelings and come to terms with your loss.
  1. Talking about your loss: It may be difficult for you initially- but in time it helps to talk about your loss and your feelings with a trusted family member or friend or a counsellor.
  2. Accepting your feelings : The anger, guilt, helplessness you may feel are normal and part of the grieving process. There is no guilt or shame in accepting them; and it paves the way for healing.
  3. Taking care of yourself : Establishing a routine with regular meals, exercise and adequate rest is important for your physical and mental health.
  4. Reaching out to others: Working with people less fortunate, or carrying on the legacy of the deceased (teaching, helping in the community) helps to give meaning to life.

When to seek professional help

  • Though different people take different times, intense and persistent grief continuing over a period of six months may require professional help.
  • Loss due to suicide is among the most difficult to bear. In such cases, counselling during the first weeks is both advisable and beneficial.
  • Inability to cope with or resume daily life or work activities, intense sorrow or pain which does not subside with time, inability to maintain or build relationships are indications to consult a mental health specialist.
Recovery from grief is a highly individual process. Each individual works through grief on their own with time, using their own personal ways of coping. Acceptance, rationalisation, humour, distraction, prayer, avoidance of reminders are some of the many ways in which people cope. Social support and healthy habits contribute to recovery which may take a few months or even a year.