Grief is the painful adjustment we all must make when we lose something or something goes wrong or threatens us. We must adjust when a loved one dies, when we received bad news about our health, lose a job or we experience rejection. The losses we experience are natural or necessary losses. Since large or small things go wrong in our lives every day and that is a painful time in our life, by being aware of our pain we grief the loss of our life. Grief is a strong emotion and reaction to loss.
Everyone experience loss in life. Children naturally experience loss of security when they enter school or move to a new area, loss of a pet is a child’s first experience with death. Loss may be a result of what does not happen, your parent does not show up to your graduation or you never being told that you are loved. When your parents don’t protect you from abuse, which is also a loss.
The grief process is a chain of events and feelings. The stages through which every grieving person passes are shock, denial, anger, depression, bargaining and finally resolution and acceptance. Grief always begins with loss and from that loss, people come in a chronic state of emotional shock and go directly into denial.
Anger is a natural response to loss. In a state of shock and denial, most people have a hard time owning and expressing their anger. For others, anger is their only place of safety.
Sadness is another part of the grief process. This is where many people become stuck. The pain of loss, underground anger, and sadness move towards depression. The depression is temporary and it resolves itself but if you hung up at the depression point you can’t enter the next stage of bargaining where the person tries to find an explanation to make the situation different than it actually is.
The final step in the grief process, the ultimate goal from the beginning is forgiveness, resolution or acceptance. At this stage of acceptance, one must be willing to tolerate all the pain and emotions associated with the previous stages.
A person can move from anger to bargaining to denial all in a single day. The most important thing is to keep feeling the emotions and move through them towards acceptance.
A person may become stuck for a period in one stage or another or go in and out of the five stages many times. If he remains stuck there then that person needs guidance from a counselor.
Once we understand grief as a natural and normal process we can be patient with others as they try to recover from their losses.
There are so many feelings and emotions that you can expect when you experience any significant loss, some of them are anger, panic, fear and hurt. Believe that you are not going crazy, though it may feel as if you are. You are grieving, you are in mourning, and whatever you are feeling is part of that process. This is not a punishment from God, it’s not an end, and it can also be a beginning.
Believe that the day will come that you will begin to see the hope again. You can survive. You may think to be alone will ease the pain but it rarely does. Here are some tips that may help you lead a loved one through this difficult time or yourself.
When appropriate, talk about your loss. You may think it’s better to avoid talking about it because you are uncomfortable but discussing your grief is what you or others need. If you are supporting a grieving friend, be a good listener. If you are grieving then just sit with your loved ones and talk about it. Check in often by phone or email. Support them non-verbally, hold them, listen to them or sit with them in silence. Just knowing that you are there can help.
Don’t dismiss their pain. Share your own experience with loss. If they need help do a small task for them; picking up children from school, doing laundry, buying grocery, taking care of pets.
Ask yourself what you learned from going through this experience. You may learn to appreciate each day more because you know how unpredictable life is.