Grief isn’t just as a result of death
For a lot of people, one only goes through grief after losing a loved one through death. For the longest time, grieving was only reserved for those who are bereaved. However, in essence, grief is a normal process that one goes through after a loss of something or someone, which can be physical, financial, social, etc. The grief one goes through can also be as a result to a change or disruption in one’s personal life, such as moving to a new place, going through a divorce, job loss, changing schools, birth of a new sibling, changes in friendships, natural disaster, etc.
As indicated in its definition, it is a normal and natural process to loss, and not a pathological condition. Therefore, it is a process that can look different for everyone because loss can affect us in different ways. Be that as it may, a lot of people in society seem to always expect people to react to loss in a certain way, their way, and if they do not, then their process of processing their loss is considered to be pathological/unhealthy. With such a perception, those around the individual who has experienced the loss do not know how to support them. They tend to not know what to say, what to do, and thus, leaving them feeling helpless.
Before unpacking the psychological stages of grief individuals tend to go through after a loss and indicating what could be helpful to offer support, perhaps, indicating the different manifestations of grief, based on the different domains of functioning, could be helpful.
Manifestations of Grief
|Emotional Manifestations||Somatic Manifestations||Cognitive Manifestations||Behavioural Manifestations|
(Children: Depending on age, might not fully understand or be able to differentiate between sleeping, absence and/or death, which is more permanent)
Difficulty with school/work performance
As seen, grief is expressed in thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and physical sensations. It is not everyone who experiences loss that will experience everything listed here. Much like the psychological stages of grief we are about to unpack now, it is not a linear process where one goes through each stage in a particular sequence. So, that is something to bear in mind when offering support.
Stages of Grief
These stages describe the 5 primary responses to loss. One can go through these stages in any order and can also return to previous stages.
Stage 1: Shock/Denial
- Thought: “This cannot be happening!”
- One is in a stage of shock, and may refuse to accept the fact that the loss has occurred.
- One might try to minimise or outright try to deny the situation.
Stage 2: Anger
- Thought: “Why is this happening to me?”
- When realising that a loss has occurred, one might become angry at themselves or others.
- During this time, one might look to place blame where they see fit.
Stage 3: Bargaining
- Thought: “I will do anything to change this”
- One may try to change or delay the loss from happening.
- For example: Try praying to God to change the situation.
Stage 4: Depression
- Thought: What is the point of going on after this loss?”
- One has come to recognise that loss has occurred or will occcur.
- Feelings of sadness are prominent, and so one may begin to self-isolate, cry, and/or grieve the loss in their way.
- Usually, this stage is a precursor to the Acceptance stage because one has recognised their loss.
Stage 5: Acceptance
- Thought: “It is going to be okay”
- One comes to accept the loss that has occurred
- One begins to understand the situation logically, and come to terms with it emotionally as well.
How To Offer Support After Loss
A lot of people think this is complicated, but what most people need after experiencing loss is to have their feelings and thoughts validated by those around them. There is no specific recipe for showing support, besides being there for them. Phrases like “Be strong”, “Be strong for the family/the children”, “Do not worry”, “They are in a better place”, or “Don’t cry” are not very helpful. If anything, it’s invalidating to the individual’s experience and can prolong or complicate one’s grieving process. If those around the individual do not know how to show support, perhaps consulting a professional, such as a counsellor or psychotherapist could be helpful.
Grieving Process May Be A Concern If The Following Are Present:
Especially if one’s presentation is not in line with how one’s culture deals with or copes with loss.
- Persistent panic or feelings of guilt, anger, or sadness
- Increased hostility
- Enduring apathy
- Difficulty adapting to the loss, etc.
During these times, therapy might be helpful because the psychotherapist would provide the individual with a safe and conducive space to explore the loss in depth. In addition, help the individual with certain processes, such as:
- separating from the person or thing lost
- readjusting/adapting to a world without the person/thing
- forming new relationships,
which is not an easy process. It would require some commitment and patience.
Always try to be realistic about the losses you experience. What ever they may be.
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