What is Grief?
Grief occurs in response to the loss of someone or something. There can be many different kinds of loss such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship or the loss of one's health. Anyone can experience loss. The loss can be expected or it can be sudden. No matter how the loss occurs, grief is the normal and natural response, but each individual experiences loss differently and in a variety of ways. There are healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with grief and there are ways that hinder the grieving process. It is imperative to acknowledge the grief which will ultimately promote the healing process. Time and support are two important components that facilitate healing. It is important to note that cultural differences also occur in the grief process.
Types of Loss
- Physical - the death of a loved one
- Symbolic - the loss of a job
- Sudden - an accident situation
- Expected - someone dies from a long-term illness
Working through Grief (Ways of Coping)
Accepting the reality of the loss
With time, we learn to accept the reality of the loss and its implication in our life. We can help ourselves by talking about our feelings, thereby reinforcing the reality of the loss.
Working through the emotional turmoil
Grief brings with it an emotional pain that is unavoidable. It is important to work through the pain of grief and not to avoid, circumvent, or repress these difficult feelings. Once this work has been done, healing can occur.
Adjusting to a new environment
In adjusting to the loss, we must find a new way of being in the world. With either a physical or a symbolic loss in our life, it becomes necessary to adopt new life patterns in response to our loss.
After having time to grieve, we are eventually able to move on with our lives and are able to invest our emotional energy into new life experiences.
It is important to understand that each person's grief experience is different from another's and each person has their own time frame for grieving. Feelings of sadness from the loss can also be recurrent throughout one's lifetime.
Factors that Help the Grieving Process
- Allow time to experience one's thoughts and feelings (feel the feelings)
- Acknowledge and accept all feelings both positive and negative
- Use a journal to document feelings
- Confide in a trusted person - tell the story
- Express feelings openly - crying is a release
- Identify unfinished business and try to come to a resolution
- Attend a bereavement support group to be with others who have experienced similar loss
- Seek professional help if the grieving process is too overwhelming
Factors that Hinder the Grieving Process
- Ignoring one's feelings or emotions
- Use of alcohol or drugs to self medicate
- Use of work (over-function at work to avoid feelings)
- Not taking time for oneself to grieve
How to Help a Person that is Grieving
- Show Acceptance
- Offer non-judgmental listening
- Allow person to express their emotions
- Permit review of the relationship with the lost one
- Be quietly present
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