Grieving is a very natural response to the loss of someone or something that is important to you. This can be the loss of a significant other, family member, health, independence, employment or home. It can include the loss of things that had positive value to you as well as those that held a negative charge. There are no set rules to how to experience or manage grief but there are some general processes that people go through and impacts that it may have on a person. Grief, even when anticipated, often comes with a state of shock as the immensity of the loss slowly starts to seep in. It is ok to take your time in trying to grasp what is happening and how it is impacting your world.
5 Stages of Grief:
As we go through this experience there are 5 generally identified stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance (Kubler Ross).
- Denial is a natural response to our brain trying to grasp a sudden change in our reality. We may have thoughts related to a loved one still coming home, plans we have for the future or fixate on things that couldn’t co-occur with the loss and argue it as proof that it didn’t happen. Denial is often a healthy coping skill and could last minutes, hours or days and a person may faze in and out of it as the slowly digest and understand the loss.
- Anger can develop as we process the circumstances of our loss, the drastic nature of the change and feelings of helplessness in our situation. Anger becomes a person’s way to feel in some level of control over their changed reality and to protect themselves from further harm. It is not necessarily unhealthy but needs to be closely monitored as it can be directed inward and/or outward in ways that can be damage relationships, stability or important resources in life.
- Bargaining is the period of asking yourself ‘what could I have done differently’, and having thoughts of ‘if only’ or “what if”. While it can be important to explore through what happened to lead up to a loss, over focusing on these questions can enhance barriers to moving forward and keep a person ‘stuck’ in their grief.
- Depression is the slow realization of the immensity of loss and the sadness it has created inside. It is often accompanied with feelings of numbness, crying, loss of appetite, and over or under sleeping. It may be an ongoing state or something that comes in waves.
- Acceptance is the working through of the areas of loss and finding a healthy ability to move forward in the healing process. It does not mean that you are no longer grieving and achieving it does not mean that you will not re-experience any the previous stages again.
Grief is fluid, at certain times we can be angry and sad and at others able to breathe and develop a plan for a life after the loss. A person needs patience with themselves through this process. There is no cookie cutter approach to what a person goes through or when they ‘get over it’ or are ‘better’.
Suggestions for Healing Through Grief:
- Give Yourself Time & Compassion
- Monitor the level of expectations you are putting on yourself
- Talk to family/ friends
- Take care of your body
- Have a mixture of time alone and time with others
- Get rid of the “Shoulds”; there is no right or wrong way to grieve
Warning Signs for Complicated Grief:
Be aware that at times we can fall into level of grief that becomes unhealthy and doesn’t follow the regular healing patterns. It can be important to ask for help if:
- You find that you can no longer perform your normal routine
- You are unable to go to work
- You excessively withdraw from others
- You have ongoing thoughts of wanting to ‘join’ a lost one or have made plans to do so
- You begin are using food, drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, or
- You are stuck in a thought loop of self blame
When we are healing we typically need to grieve in a combination of 3 different ways
- By ourselves as we process the intimacy of the loss
- With others around us who have also shared the loss or other significant losses of their own
- With someone outside of the loss who is able to be a grounding rod for you in your loss and that you can open up to without worries of hurting feelings or a sense of judgment.
If you find yourself struggling with grief and are in need of grief counseling in the New Castle, Lawrence County area we have several great therapist available to assist you through your loss. You do not have to grieve alone!
There are also some great resources available to use to assist yourself and/or a loved one through this process. Some of the ones we often recommend include:
Water Bugs & Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children By: Doris Stickney
Although aimed at children this is a story I frequently tell to adults that helps illustrate the transition from life to what may be next along the path.
I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping & Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One
By: Brook Noel & Pamela D Blair
A Great resource for working through the first few weeks/ months after a sudden loss.
Healing After Loss
By: Martha Whitmore Hickman
A daily meditation journal that has short but touching entries on the experiences of loss and moving forward afterwards.
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