“Everyone who experiences love or who forms an attachment to another runs the risk of losing the loved person or object and suffering the consequences of loss. If so, then “to grieve is to pay ransom to love” (Shneidman, 1983, cited by Corr et.al, 2009).
Most people have at one point or the other experienced a loss and the resultant grieving process. What are losses? And is there an appropriate way to grieve for a loss?
Corr et.al (2009) posit that a loss occurs when an individual is separated from or is deprived of an individual, object, status, or relationship. Losses can be categorized as physical loss or psychological loss. According to Rando (1993), a physical loss is when someone loses something tangible which may include breaking up with someone, uprooting from one’s home and relocating, amputating a body part or experiencing the death of someone close. On the other hand, a psychosocial loss is the loss of something intangible such as a divorce, an illness, a dream, or a hope. As a result of a loss, an individual may exhibit certain emotions, and/or behaviors classified as grief.
Rando (1993) in his work describes grief as a reaction or response to a loss. Additionally, Corr et.al (2009) defines grief as an emotional reaction to a loss. Worden (1991), as adapted by the Center for Counseling and Student Wellness and as found on their webpage, states that “grief, itself, is a natural response and normal response to a loss” (www.hws.edu). The article shows that acknowledging and allowing oneself to grief is important as this promotes the healing process.
Moreover, grief can impact one’s body, thoughts, and emotions. And according to Rando (1993), it can have multi-dimensional effects on an individual: physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Thus, these effects may be represented in the following ways, though not limited to those manifestations listed here: hollowness in the stomach, tightness in the chest, lack of energy, sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, relief, loneliness, disbelief, confusion, preoccupation, insomnia, crying, restlessness, social withdrawal, difficulties in interpersonal relationship, hostility toward God or turning towards Him (Corr et.al, 2009).
These symptoms may occur in the stages posited by Kubler-Ross in her work on death and dying which has since been adapted to other situations involving grief. These stages include: Denial - where there’s disbelief and the individual states, “Not me”; Anger is the second stage and the question asked here is, “Why me?” This is followed by the third stage, Bargaining which admits, “Yes me. But what does it entail?”. The fourth stage is Depression which can either be reactive or preparatory in nature. where in the first instance one responds to past and present losses and anticipates and responds to potential losses. The fifth stage is Acceptance which is described as a stage almost void of feelings. These stages may occur simultaneously and an individual may not experience all of them.
Most times, grief is the result of the loss of a loved one most likely through death. However, grieving is not limited to death and losses that are not death-related can also be complicated in their own ways as is highlighted by Harvey (1998). Corr et.al (2009) continue to explain that such losses can be as hurtful as those related to death and in some cases may be even more hurtful. Thus, it is quite alright for the individual to grieve as a result of having lost someone or something that was significant in his or her life.
How long, then, should one grieve over a loss? Everyone grieves differently so it is not wise to have a stipulated time frame for grief. Besides, grief can be categorized as uncomplicated or complicated. An uncomplicated grief as highlighted by Rando (1993) may take 2-3 years while a complicated grief will take 5-7 years.
When situations result in complicated grief the individual may need therapeutic intervention in order to get through the grieving process. Corr et.al (2009) highlight five variables that may influence how one grieves. These include: the nature of the prior attachment; the manner in which the loss occurred; the coping strategies utilized by the bereaved; the developmental situations of the bereaved person; and the nature of the support that is available to the bereaved person after the loss. Complicated grief may result in depression and other mental disorders. Therefore, it is vital that the individual be aware of what is happening and seek out the necessary assistance when they are unable to cope or function with their daily activities.
The Center for Counseling and Student Wellness provides some tips on how to manage grief and loss. Having support is important. One can find support from family and friends who will help bear the burden of grief. Talking about the grief is also helpful in getting through it. One’s faith can provide meaning in understanding what has occurred. It may mean seeking help from your pastor. One should also participate in spiritual activities that are meaningful for example praying and going to church which may offer solace and comfort. If your grief feels like it’s too much of a burden then talk to a professional counselor who will help you to work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to your grief (www.hws.edu).
The Center explains further that even while grieving, it is vital that one takes care of oneself. Eating properly, getting enough rest, exercising, not using alcohol and drugs are ways of ensuring physical health which would be beneficial to one’s emotional health as well. In addition, it is important to know one’s triggers and be prepared for them. Having a coping strategy is important in managing one’s grief.
Grief is natural and is inevitable. As long as one forms a genuine attachment to someone or something and loses him/her/it, then the process will happen. However, there is healing available. One just has to acknowledge that one is hurting and instead of suppressing one’s feelings, one must work through them until one reaches the point of acceptance. Reach out for support and seek help when you needed it as you go through a period of grave importance.