Coping with Grief and Loss – Insights in to the Grieving Process

Grief and loss can be challenging for many of us. I don’t think I really knew too much about it growing up. However, later on in my life (maybe from about 30ish), I became accutely aware how much loss I had experienced (without actually realising it).

In this post, I am going to share –

  • What is Loss?
  • What is Grief?
  • What Types of Loss Can Cause Grief?
  • What are some Normal Reactions to Grief?
  • The Four Tasks of Mourning and the Five Stages of Grief, and
  • Some Insights into Grief and Loss.

Let’s get started…

 

What is Loss?

Loss is being parted from someone or something that is really important to you. Loss can come into our lives in lots of ways, and it affects each of us differently.

 

What is Grief?

There are a number of definitions about grief, including –

  • “…intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death.” ~ Google and Oxford Dictionaries
  • “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.” ~ Dictionary.com
  • “deep sadness caused especially by someone’s death” ~ Merriam-Webster
  • “The normal process of reacting to a loss. The loss may be physical (such as a death), social (such as divorce), or occupational (such as a job).” ~ MedicineNet.com

 

What Types of Loss can Cause Grief?

Honestly – any type of loss can cause grief as grief is a reaction to a loss. Some examples of loss that can cause grief include –

  • Losing or leaving a job,
  • Death of someone you love,
  • Divorce or relationship breakup,
  • Retirement,
  • Selling the family home,
  • A pet passing,
  • Getting injured (especially if an athlete),
  • Loss of health,
  • A significant person in your life getting sick or ill, and
  • Loss of a friendship.

What are some Normal Reactions to Grief?

Grief is an individual experience to a loss, there is no one right way to grieve. Subsequently, there are many normal grief reactions including –

Affective –

  • Anger,
  • Anxiety and Fear,
  • Hurt,
  • Inadequacy,
  • Loneliness, and
  • Sadness.

Behavioural –

  • Absent-minded behaviours,
  • Appetite disturbances,
  • Crying,
  • Searching and calling out,
  • Sleep disturbances, and
  • Social withdrawal.

Cognitive –

  • Confusion,
  • Disbelief,
  • Hallucinations,
  • Pre-occupation, and
  • Sense of Presence.

Physical –

  • A sense of depersonalisation,
  • Dryness in mouth,
  • Feeling short of breath,
  • Lack of energy,
  • Over sensitivity to noise, and
  • Tightness in body (i.e. chest or throat).

 

“The pain of the soul and heart is much more powerful that the pain of the body” ~ The Prophet.

 

The Four Tasks of Mourning and the Five Stages of Grief

Throughout the years, there has been a lot written to help understand the process of grieving. I am going to share with you two ideas – “the four tasks of mourning” and “the five stages of grief”.

In the book Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy, Worden suggests there are four tasks one must go through for “the process of mourning to be completed” and “equilibrium to be reestablished”. The tasks are not linear (even though that is the way they are presented) and individuals may have to revisit them later as there no time for completing grief tasks. The four tasks of mourning are identified in the graphic below.

Worden's Four Tasks of Mourning

In her book On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross discusses what the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy, and their own families. The book is a discussion on some of the key emotional reactions to the experiences of the dying.

If you choose to read the book, you will see there are 5 stages that are described. The stages are used so the author can clearly articulate the experiences of the people she was learning from. As with the “four tasks of mourning”, many of the stages overlap. The five stages are –

  1. Denial and isolation,
  2. Anger,
  3. Bargaining,
  4. Depression, and
  5. Acceptance.

You can see a visual of the diagram here.

 

Some Insights into Grief and Loss

It is important to remember that grief and loss is complex and a few insights to remember are –

  • We all respond to changes in our life in different ways – there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is also no timeframe to grieving.
  • Our reactions to the loss often depends on how attached we are to the person or object we lost.
  • A loss reaction can occur when things change in our lives.
  • Being able to acknowledge and accept the significance of a loss is important.
  • Loss experiences can be very painful. It is important to remember they are natural and are an important part of growing and evolving through life. They also happen throughout life and there is quite often something you will gain from the experience (i.e. appreciation of that person or wisdom).

 

Over to You…

Do you have any questions about grief and loss or the grieving process? If so, please ask them below or contact us. Also feel free to join our toolkit, to help you live with an open heart!

 

References –

Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying: What the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy, and their own families. New York, USA: Scribner.

Worden, W. (2009). Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy – A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner. New York, USA: Springer Publishing Company.

 

 

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