The chance of experiencing grief and loss in your lifetime is 100 percent. Everyone encounters significant loss at some point, and grief is the emotional reaction to that loss. Whether you face the death of a beloved family member or pet, see a marriage or job crumble, or watch your health or finances diminish, some level of grieving will occur.
Grief is both universal and unique in its nature. Two people experiencing the same loss might react very differently depending on their relationship to whom or what is being grieved.
It’s not uncommon to experience sleeplessness, weight loss or gain, or a weakened immune system. Chronic illnesses may become worse due to the stress of grieving. Emotional responses may range from anger, sadness, guilt, fear, or anxiety to moments of relief, peace, or even happiness.
THE FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF
While there is no normal or expected response when experiencing grief and loss, there are five common stages, observed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, through which many people walk. These stages include:
- Denial - Disbelieving the current reality as a way of coping with overwhelming facts.
- Anger - Initial emotional reaction to awareness of loss.
- Bargaining - Adjusting to loss through use of negotiation, compromise, or resolutions.
- Depression - Overwhelming feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
- Acceptance - Coming to terms with the loss; sadness begins to give way to hope.
COMMON MYTHS ABOUT GRIEF
No two individuals will follow the same grief path or timetable. Grieving is an intensely personal experience, and no one should determine what is grief-worthy for another. There is no “normal” or standard protocol that fits everyone. Here are some other common misconceptions:
- If you just ignore the loss, the pain will go away.
- It’s important for you to stay strong at all times.
- Tears are directly proportionate to the level of your loss.
- After one year, you should be completely over all aspects of your loss.
There are many useful ways to move from a place of grief to a life of healing and hope.
✓ Talking about the loss with family and friends can aid healing.
✓ Emotional reactions of all sorts (anger, sadness, bitterness, envy) are normal.
✓ Give yourself permission to experience a wide range of emotions and not feel guilty.
✓ Take care of yourself with good nutrition, exercise and rest.
✓ Avoid relying on caffeine, alcohol or other drugs as a means of self-medicating.
KEEP IN MIND
Coping when experiencing grief and loss takes time and involves learning to live with the loss without being consumed by it. Consider reaching out to your health care provider and engaging other counseling resources for guidance on next steps.
What steps will you take today to help yourself heal and recover?