Grief and CounselingMourningHow to Deal with a Loss

December 9, 2019Obitia
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If you are in a life-threatening situation please call +1 (800) 273-8255, the information below should not be used as a substitute for a licensed therapist or doctor.

When a family member or close friend passes away, it can seem that life comes to a screeching halt. Final wishes have to be met, funerals planned, wills read through, and the estate settled, all very emotional and difficult things to face. Everything seems to happen all at once, likely leaving you to wonder when there will be time to process the loss and deal with your grief.

But what is grief? Grief is the normal process of reacting to a loss. During the grieving period, it was previously believed that people enter various stages of grief in a specific order. However, recent research shows that may not be the case. You may go through all of the stages or just a few and in no real particular order. The stages are shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance. Learn more about the different stages of grief.

The shock stage typically refers to the numbness that is felt right after someone learns they’ve lost a loved one. Guilt refers to the regret felt if there was an unresolved difficulty in the relationship. Denial is the refusal to accept that your loved one is gone. Anger comes for a variety of reasons, for example, when someone is young or a person becomes angry with themselves over things they did or didn’t do. Bargaining and depression occur together a lot, and acceptance is that final feeling of peace.

There is no timetable for the grieving process. Some people grieve for a few days or months while others take years to get through the process. A lot of that depends on your relationship with the deceased as well. A spouse, parent or sibling may take longer to get through the process than a family friend or an old teacher.

No matter whose death it is, you can be sure that you will experience at least a few stages of grief. During those stages (learn more about the stages of grief), you may experience both emotional and physical reactions to your grief. An emotional reaction could be sadness, despair or anxiety, while a physical reaction would include sleeping problems, changes in appetite or physical problems/illness. Some of those things also depend on your mental and emotional state with the deceased prior to their death. If you were in the midst of an argument, you’re more likely to feel guilt and anxiety, where if everything was smooth sailing then you may spend more time in shock and denial.

In order to cope with grief, there are a few things you can do. According to Mental Health America (MHA), you should seek out caring people, express your feelings, take care of your health, accept that life is for the living, postpone major life changes, be patient and seek outside help when necessary. Knowing what to expect when learning of a loss goes a long way towards the healing process as well. Even if a death is unexpected, understanding the grieving process and knowing some simple coping techniques will go a long way towards healing.

Should you experience prolonged or complicated grief, there is no shame in seeking out a counselor or psychologist. While there is no timetable for getting through grief, there may still come a time when you realize that life isn’t working. For example, typically, the loss of a child will take significantly longer to grieve than the loss of a grandparent. But that doesn’t mean that the loss of a grandparent won’t trigger a depression you cannot handle alone. Don’t be afraid to seek outside help if your grief is affecting your daily life and inhibiting your ability to function in a normal fashion.

Losing a loved one is never easy. Everyone experiences some form of grief when they feel a loss, but not everyone experiences it the same way. A lot depends on your own mental and emotional state prior to the loss, some of it depends on whether you already battle depression and anxiety and some of it depends on the nature of the death, whether it was natural, expected, unexpected, or violent. The stages of grief do not change, but the intensity of those stages and the emotional or physical response will vary from person to person. It is important to remember that everyone grieves in their own way, that no one way is better than another, and everyone grieves at a different rate.

Understanding grief will not only help you get through the process when you experience it yourself, but it can also help you help someone else who is going through it. Assure them that whatever they feel is normal, that it’s okay and that it will get easier with time. Grief is hard. Losing a loved one is hard, no matter the circumstance. But knowing the stages of grief and the emotional and physical response it can trigger will go a long way toward healing.

View Resources for Dealing with Grief >


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