Grief is a normal reaction to loss. It is a strong, and many times overwhelming, emotion for individuals regardless of whether their sadness is the result of the loss of a loved one or the diagnosis of a terminal illness. Experiences of grief are based upon personal situations and are influenced by the nature of the loss. Individuals who are grieving may find themselves feeling numb and removed from daily life. Additionally, they may feel unable to carry on with daily activities while they are weighed down with their sense of loss. Some examples of loss include:
- Death of a loved one
- Ending of important relationship
- Job loss
- Loss of independence due to disability or illness
Mourning a loss can last for months or, in some cases, years. In most cases, however, the pain lessens as time goes on and as the individual adapts to life once again. For those who are grieving it is important to realize that they cannot control the process and they have to prepare themselves for the various stages of grief that they will ultimately experience.
Five stages of Loss and Grief
The stages of mourning and grief are universal and can be experienced by anyone who has suffered some form of loss. It has been determined that there are five stages of grief, as proposed by Elisbeth Kubler-Ross. During bereavement, individuals spend different lengths of time working through each stage. These stages do not necessarily occur in any specific order and it is possible to move between stages before achieving a more peaceful acceptance of the loss.
Stage One: Denial and Isolation: Many times the first reaction to a loss is to deny the reality of the situation. Additionally, individuals may block out the world and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that helps individuals get through the first wave of pain.
Stage Two: Anger: As the denial and isolation wear off, reality and the pain re-emerge. Since most individuals are still not ready to deal with the pain, it is often redirected and expressed as anger. This anger may be directed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, family, or friends.
Stage Three: Bargaining: When individuals feel helpless and vulnerable, their natural instinct is to have a need to gain control. Secretly, individuals may begin to make deals with God or another higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable.
Stage Four: Depression: When mourning, individuals typically experience two types of depression. The first form of depression is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss, while the second form of depression is more subtle and often more private.
Stage Five: Acceptance: Reaching this stage of grief is marked with calm. Coping with loss is a deeply personal experience and no one can help someone go through it more easily or better understand all of the accompanying emotions. The best thing to do is to allow yourself to feel the grief because resisting it will only prolong the natural process of healing.
Signs and Symptoms of Grief
When grieving, it is normal to experience an emotionally and physically difficult period in response to the loss. However, it can be difficult to differentiate symptoms that are a normal part of the grieving process from symptoms of complicated grief or clinical depression. While symptoms of grief can last a long period of time, it normally begins to improve slowly over time until eventually, the individual is able to re-engage in life and emotionally come to terms with the loss. Some common symptoms of grief include:
- Preoccupation with the lost loved one
- Constant longing for the loved one
- Avoidance of friends and social activities
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Feeling the need to talk about loss all the time
- Changes in personality or behavior
- Feeling overly sensitive
- Easily fatigued
- Decreased or increased appetite
- Sleep disruptions
- Bouts of crying
- Nausea and stomach problems
Effects of Grief
The grieving process is an individual and prolonged experience. Not only is grief painful, but it can take an emotional and physical toll on an individual. In fact, grief typically goes hand-in-hand with a variety of physical and mental problems such as memory impairment, problems concentrating, nutritional deficiencies, and poor work performance. In some cases, grief can cause or exacerbate physical ailments that already exist.
Physical effects can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Heart palpitations
- Lack of energy
- Compromised immune system
- Higher risk for serious illness
- Risk of heart attack
Emotional effects can include:
- Feelings of abandonment
- Feelings of self-harm
- Suicidal thoughts
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Treatment for Grief
Many times when a loss is experienced, a lot of the support an individual will receive for his or her grief comes from family and other close loved ones. However, for individuals who are having an exceptionally hard time coping with their loss, it may be very beneficial to seek out grief counseling at a treatment clinic. Most commonly grief counseling includes: helping the bereaved accept the loss by talking about it, helping him or her identify and accept feelings related to the loss, and helping him or her to separate emotionally from the person he or she has lost. Additionally, a grief treatment clinic provides individuals with support, can explain the grieving process and the differences in grieving among individuals, and to help individuals understand their methods of coping. In addition to grief therapy, joining a support group can help relieve some of the stress related to the grieving process. Through support groups, members can share common experiences and problems while helping each other during this difficult time.
Getting Help from Us
Our main treatment facility in Dennison is within Trinity Twin City Critical Access Hospital. We serve residents of the entire Eastern Ohio region including cities like Canton and Cadiz. Call one of our Admissions counselors today for a free, confidential screening to see how Ten Lakes Center can help you down the path of recovery.