Grief and Loss
There are no right or wrong way to grieve just healthy ways to manage the process.
“Only the people capable of loving intensely can suffer a great pain, but this same need to love serves to counteract their griefs, and it cures them.”
The common factor in every type of grief is that it implies a loss. But given that losses can be very diverse in nature, there are different types of grief.
We speak of “evolutionary griefs” when we refer to the losses implied in the passing from one age to another. There are also the “social griefs”, such as the loss of a job, retirement, exile, etc.
This grief takes place when you are aware that you will suffer an imminent loss, but it hasn’t taken place yet.
This happens, for example, when you undergo a divorce or a long trip. Or when someone suffers from a terminally ill or euthanasia is planned.
This is a kind of grief in which the person affected blocks their feelings. They try to act as if nothing is happening. In fact, if it is brought up, they don’t give it any morethan any other issue.
Chronic grief presents itself when someone fails to work through the loss of a loved one. One way or another, they refuse to accept what has happened. Instead, they focus obsessively on keeping alive the memory of the person that has departed. They end up paralyzing their life and constantly maintaining a stance of pain.
This is, usually, an effect of absent grief. Although at first the person tries to ignore their pain, after a while, it reemerges with great force and maybe in the least expected moment. Sometimes several years can even go by before this type of mourning begins.
This type of grief is experienced by people who have great difficulty expressing their feelings. In the case of children, for example, who can’t seem to put into words everything that this situation represents. In many occasions, adults ignore their pain and don’t help them overcome it. Adults simply think that “children just don’t understand”.
In unauthorized grief, the environment or the person’s surroundings manifest a rejection towards the pain they are experimenting. Sooner or later, others always try to overrule grief at some point because, for someone who hasn’t lived through this suffering, what the mourner should do is let go and move on with their life.
Initially the signs of symptoms of any type of grieving are the same. However, while normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade over time, those of complicated grief linger or get worse. Complicated grief is like being in an ongoing, heightened state of mourning that keeps you from healing.
Signs and symptoms of complicated grief may include:
- Intense sorrow, pain and rumination over the loss of your loved one
- Focus on little else but your loved one's death
- Extreme focus on reminders of the loved one or excessive avoidance of reminders
- Intense and persistent longing or pining for the deceased
- Problems accepting the death
- Numbness or detachment
- Bitterness about your loss
- Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
- Lack of trust in others
- Inability to enjoy life or think back on positive experiences with your loved one
Complicated grief also may be indicated if you continue to:
- Have trouble carrying out normal routines
- Isolate from others and withdraw from social activities
- Experience depression, deep sadness, guilt or self-blame
- Believe that you did something wrong or could have prevented the death
- Feel life isn't worth living without your loved one
- Wish you had died along with your loved one
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross explained grief with five distinct stages :
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. (DABDA)
A combination of prescription medication and therapy have been the most common methods of treating grief.
Some of the common medications which help with daily functioning include sedatives, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medications. In some cases the doctor might prescribe sleep medication. This treatment area often causes some differences in opinion in the medical field. There are some practitioners who feel medications numb the emotion and don't allow people to heal from the loss - potentially interfering with the five stages of grief and eventual acceptance of reality.
Counseling has been accepted as a more therapeutic approach when managing grief. Counseling or psychotherapy helps people process their emotions and are guided through the therapeutic process by the clinician till acceptance of the loss is achieved. People who are grieving often are unable to function in their daily duties and need support to get back on track. The coping strategies from therapy and the medication help achieve this.
If you or a loved one is having a hard time coping with a grief event, seek treatment from a health professional or mental health provider. Call a doctor right away if you experience thoughts of suicide, feelings of detachment for more than two weeks, you experience a sudden change in behavior, or believe you are suffering from depression.