Grief and loss

Grief is an emotion one feels when coping with loss; loss of something meaningful or someone they love. The pain of loss can feel overwhelming. Grief over loss does not just affect someone who has just lost a spouse, parent, child, pet or a dear friend to death. It could also be the end of a marriage, the end of a job (retirement or termination), the end of a relationship / friendship, the loss of health / physical limbs; it is basically the end of something that had given you meaning and fulfillment. Although, I do realize that not many are aware of the emotions following grief showing up other than for death. A loyal employee, who loses a job after 25 years due to restructuring, may not realize that he / she is facing grief, and yet they have the similar emotions, of shock-denial, anger, and depression. It is helpful to be aware of these emotions showing up, and linking them to the life events that surrounds you. This allows you to understand the situations you are facing and perhaps find your own ways of coping.

Everyone reacts to these grief stages and length of grieving, rather uniquely; there is no right or wrong way to grieve. The pain of grief can disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight. These are normal reactions to loss. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and how significant the loss was to you.

According to psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, she describes the five stages related to grief as:

  1. Denial (confusion, shock, fear),

  2. Anger (anxiety, frustration),

  3. Bargaining (make meaning, bargaining with God for an exchange),

  4. Depression (helplessness, hopelessness) and,

  5. Acceptance (exploring options, moving on).

There is no structure or a straight forward process on how these emotions may show up; it could begin with bargaining, followed by denial, depression and anger, and then back to depression etc. Loss is not easy, it is a shift in an otherwise orderly and comfortable world of the person. It is about adjusting, coping, managing, re-learning and re-structuring their world again. These takes time. Feelings take time to heal. it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” schedule for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months, some take years. However, the intensity of the pain following grief may be lesser as the years go by. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.

Each individual cope with grief and loss differently. Some would prefer to withdraw and isolate themselves. While that may be helpful for a while to process everything, it would also be advisable to seek support and comfort by being around people who care for you. If need to, find a close family, friend or trained professional to help you process your loss. You may want to draw comfort in your faith. Spiritual activities that are meaningful to you—such as praying, meditating, or going to church—can offer consolation. You may also consider joining a support group. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help.

All these painful / hurtful emotions becomes less intense as you begin to accept the loss and start to move forward with your life. However, if you aren’t feeling better over time, or your grief is getting worse, it may be a sign of complicated grief or major depression. Seek a trained professional-therapist/counselor to help you find a certain closure. Do remember, it is ok to release these painful emotions. For those who have lost a loved one, releasing these painful emotions will not take away the beautiful memories that you have with them - they will always live in your heart and they are always with you.