Do you know someone who is dealing with a loss? Grief is the natural reaction to loss, but some avoid the grieving process and internalize the emotional pain. We can experience loss from death, divorce, and/or other life-changing events that result in a grief reaction. Our reaction to loss can impact our cognitions, feelings, as well as our physical, behavioral and spiritual being. In many situations our defense mechanisms kick in to protect us from pain and fear. For example, denial/repression may be used when a person is unable to cope with the reality of the loss. Defense mechanisms become unhealthy when they become the predominate coping strategy and prevent us from dealing with reality. Everyone deals with loss differently and there is not one standard formula for grieving that we need to follow.
Loss can be devastating, complicated, and overwhelming, especially when the loss is sudden or there is a lack of a support network. Kubler-Ross described five stages of grieving including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We can move back and forth through these stages as the grieving progresses. Sometimes an individual will get stuck in one stage and struggle to move forward. As mentioned earlier, the course of grief is highly dependent on the individual based on their prior experience and coping skills along with their support systems and expectations. Feeling helpless and powerless often accompanies loss until the bereaved is able to regain a sense of control in their lives.
The process of grief often involves waves of emotion. Expressing and experiencing these feelings is part of the healing process. In other words, we have to go through it to get through it. In fact, suffering and healing often occur simultaneously. Saying goodbye through a letter to the person who is gone can help with healing and closure. Grief takes time, but also action to confront the anger, guilt, and/or depression. Journalling is one method people often find helpful. Seek a supportive grieving environment and adjust to the changes of life. Remember that you don’t have to let go of the memories of the person, but you do have to let go of the emotional pain.