What is it?
Grief is a person’s internal experience, thoughts and feelings related to the experience of losing someone or something that was valued. It consists of emotional, psychological, and physical symptoms. As with a physical injury, the recovery and healing process can take time. This period cannot be rushed and varies from individual to individual. Everyone is different. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve and there’s no telling how long it may take.
When we’re grieving, it’s difficult to understand what’s happening. One of the things that might help is to look at other losses in our lives, each of which requires a period of adjustment. Even a simple one such as losing a purse will produce a reaction. Initially, we may have feelings of disbelief, panic, confusion, leading to annoyance, anger and inconvenience. Life has been temporarily upset and it takes a while to adjust to the new situation. In time, we’ll either find the purse or accept the loss.
Who Does it Affect?
Loss is a common experience that can be encountered many times during a lifetime; it affects people of any age, race, sex, education, economic status, religion, culture or nationality. Most people have experienced some type of personal or professional loss at some point in their life as a byproduct of living. Grief is an experience that is almost certain to happen to any one of us sooner or later. Since we form relationship bonds and attachments in life, the experience of losing someone you love or something you value can be shattering.
All Grief is Different
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. We all have different personalities, ways of coping and past experiences. No two people’s grief will be the same. Each of us is likely to experience a wide range of feelings, which may vary from day to day. Many people have tried to explain what grief is; some have even identified certain stages of grief. Probably the most well-known of these is Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, author of, “On Death and Dying.” In it, she identified five stages that a dying patient experiences when informed of their terminal prognosis.
The stages Kubler-Ross identified are:
- Denial (this isn’t happening to me!)
- Anger (why is this happening to me?)
- Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…)
- Depression (I don’t care anymore)
- Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes)
Many people believe that others also experience these stages of grief when they have lost a loved one.
· Denial (this isn’t happening)
· Anger (toward God, medical staff, the loved one, etc.)
· Bargaining (I’ll go to church more, be a better spouse, etc.)
· Depression (I’m lost, I have no control, etc.)
· Acceptance (my life must go on)
Physical symptoms may include: hollowness in the stomach, over-sensitivity to noise, tightness in the chest or throat, muscle weakness, lack of energy, a dry mouth, fatigue and breathlessness. Feelings may include: sadness, anger, guilt, self-reproach, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, shock, relief, numbness and yearning. Behavioral changes may include: insomnia and sleep interruption, appetite disturbances, absent-minded behavior, social withdrawal, dreams of the deceased, avoiding reminders of the deceased, sighing, restlessness, hyperactivity, crying, visiting places or treasuring objects that are reminders of the loss.
Thoughts may include: disbelief, confusion, preoccupation with the deceased, a sense of presence of the deceased, and auditory and visual hallucinations are not unusual for people who have lost a loved one. These visual and auditory hallucinations are part of the normal grief reaction and a very real physical occurrence to those who experience them.
Difficulties in coping can show up as physical or behavior problems, delayed or extreme mourning, or conflicted or extended grief. Grief therapy helps you identify and solve problems you may have in your time of loss.
Grief therapy helps you see that you can have positive feelings about the loss mixed with anger, guilt, or other negative or uncomfortable feelings. If you have unresolved grief from earlier losses, grief may be complicated. It’s important to grieve earlier losses before you can handle your current grief. Grief therapy will help you with blockages to the mourning process, and identifying unfinished business. You will learn to understand that the loss is final and to picture life after the grief period.