In life, you suffer losses all the time. Life is full of unpredictable changes that catch you off guard. Building attachments towards something or someone and having it stripped away hurts, and often feels like it’s beyond your strength. The emotional suffering you experience after a loss is a natural response called grief. Grieving usually feels overwhelming, unbelievable, shocking, infuriating, and sad. Any type of loss can result in grief. Death of your loved ones, loss of a job, divorce or a break up are some examples of losses that can cause grief.
Stages of Grief
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1969) identified 5 stages of grief.
Experiencing any of these stages after a loss is normal. Not experiencing any of these stages following a loss is also normal. The process of grieving is very subjective and differs among different individuals. There is no specific way to grieve. There isn’t a right or a wrong way to grieve either. How you grieve is a highly individual experience. There are several elements that come into play when it comes to how you grieve. Your personality, coping mechanisms, life experiences, faith and how significant the loss was to you all play a role in your grieving process. Naturally, grief is time-consuming. Recovering from grief occurs gradually and mustn’t be rushed or forced. For some, healing happens after several weeks or months. For others, it could take years. The timeline for a grieving process isn’t set in stone. That being said, it’s important to acknowledge that patience is key when it comes to overcoming grief.
In some cases, grief could also occur before a loss. You can experience emotional distress before the impending loss you suffer. This is known as anticipatory grief or preparatory grief. It refers to the experience of bereavement knowing that an unavoidable loss is approaching. The experience of anticipatory grief is subjective. Not everyone experiences anticipatory grief and it is neither inherently good nor bad. Some people don’t grieve prior to a loss because they want to remain optimistic. On the other hand, other people experience anticipatory grief more severely.
Some existing studies found pre-emptive bereavement could help an individual to better cope after the loss. While others argued anticipatory grief has no effect on post-loss bereavement. Some studies also suggested that grieving prior to losing someone could be a factor in predicting prolonged grief disorder. In prolonged grief disorders, someone may experience a complicated grieving process. However, due to the contradictory findings in research, it is important to remember that experiencing anticipatory grief is an involuntary experience. Despite anticipatory grief being described as “beneficial” by some researchers, you should always receive the help you need to cope with any form of grief.
Symptoms of Grief
In light of what we’ve gone over, both recognizing grief and differentiating between grief and depression are important. Significant emotional distress can trigger a depressive episode and considering that symptoms between the two sometimes may overlap, depression could easily be overlooked.
Emotional symptoms of grief include shock, disbelief, numbness, sadness, guilt, anger, and fear. On the flip side, physical symptoms of grief include fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight fluctuations and insomnia.
In the case of a depressive episode triggered by grief, you may feel guilt unassociated with grief, feeling worthless, and suicidal ideation.
Getting a diagnosis and seeking treatments for depression can literally be life-saving. Therefore, it is crucial that you remain aware of what is happening to you as you seek the necessary help.
Everyone copes with grief differently. What works for you may not work for others. You should find the best coping mechanisms for you, as you come to terms with your loss and eventually learn to be at peace with it.
That being said, here are some suggestions on how you can cope with grief.
It is imperative that you allow yourself to take all the time you need to heal. Acknowledge and accept your feelings. Understand that grieving is a process and that the pain will not go away any faster if you ignore or suppress it. The best way to heal is to actively face your grief and do what you need to cope with it.
When you are grieving, it is easy to push everyone away and isolate yourself. You may think that no one understands your pain and that you need to be alone. Well, you don’t have to. Sometimes, being alone at times of difficulty does more harm than good. Maintaining communication with people you trust could help you with your grieving process. It always helps to be reminded that you are surrounded by people who love and care for you.
When we are too preoccupied with pain, we tend to neglect ourselves and fail to look after our needs. This will only slow down the recovery process. Always remember to take good care of your physical and mental health. Ensure that you are getting enough nutrients and rest. Besides eating and resting enough, regular exercise can also help to keep you healthy and energized. When your body feels good on the outside, you will subsequently feel good on the inside.
Nothing is worse than feeling like you’re the only one suffering. Sometimes, being surrounded by other people who share the same emotional pain you’re feeling could help make you feel less lonely. Hence, joining a support group when things are getting tough will allow you to share your thoughts with others. This could give you the extra strength you may need to overcome your grief and eventually, heal.
During the grieving process, if you feel like you’re stuck in an intense state of mourning, you may be suffering from complicated grief. Perhaps you have trouble accepting your loss long after it has occurred. Being intensely preoccupied with grief and loss can negatively affect your life and eventually undermines your interpersonal relationships. This may be the time for you to seek help. With the right guidance, you could make healing changes and heal.
Do you find yourself struggling with grief? Do you feel like you are in over your head? Here at MINC.Care, we provide services like coaching and guidance to help you in your grieving process. It is never too late to seek help.
Painful experiences are part of life but that does not mean you have to always remain in pain. Life is like a wheel. With the ups, there are downs. So when you’re feeling down, always remember that you can and will get back up. It may not seem possible at times, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Don’t know where to start? Contact us for coaching and other services to help manage grief.
At MINC.Care, we care.
Article prepared by Arinah, MINC.Care.