When times are tough and we experience loss, we hopefully can put life into perspective. The grieving process can be an uphill climb to acceptance, however, hopefully in this time, the positive outcome is seeing life with a different lens. The moans that we have had in past become trivial. The material losses or damage to objects is no where near as close to the feeling of loss of a person or a relationship. This is perspective.
There are 5 apparent stages of dealing with grief and people spend different times working through the various steps. Some stages are experienced more instensely and for longer depending the individual.
1. Denial and isolation
The first reaction is to deny the reality of the situation. It's normal to be in shock and block out overwhelming emotions.
"This can't be happening to me."
When the pain and the reality start to merge, we might not be ready and we may experience anger. Anger aimed at objects, strangers, friends or family members. Anger may also be directed at the person we have lost. We know the person isn't to blame but we may resent them for leaving us.
"Why did this happen? What's God doing to me? Why am I being punished?"
This is when we try to regain control. The what ifs and if only's.
"If only I got a doctor sooner."
"If only I did this... If only I did that..."
"Make this not happen and I promise I will be good."
The two types of depression:
1. Around the practicalities. We worry about costs, the funeral, putting away belongings etc.
2. Around the separation. The feeling of being in a slump
"I am too sad to do anything"
Coping with loss is ultimately a personal and individual experience. Nobody can understand fully what you have went through however you can still allow them to be there for you. In the angry stage, you may push people away but when in this stage you are more likely to be able to talk openly and depend on others. Resentment will have subsided and you will be able to feel the grief when it comes over you.
"I am at peace with what happened"
Remember you don't have to go through each stage in order to heal. There's no schedule for going through the stages of grief.
How to cope:
Turn to friends and family. It's time to lean on the people who care about you especially when you are in the angry or depressed stage as you may be feeling the world is against you and nobody cares. And maybe nobody has complete attachment to the loss, the same way you do but they have attachment to you and want to help you with your pain.
Join a support group - grief can feel very lonely and even with loved ones around you. Sometimes sharing your pain and loss with people who have experienced the same thing can help.
Bereavement counsellor - make use of the health services provided. It doesn't make you weak to rely on other people, in fact it shows you are strong. Strong to seek help and strong to seek understanding.
Face you feelings - you can try to keep grief tucked away but it can't be avoided forever. In order of healing, you have to be aware of pain and resolve it.
Express yourself - it doesn't always have to be to someone else. You can write in a diary, write a letter of all the things you didn't get to say, get involved in a cause that was important to them or with other people going through same thing.
Plan for triggers - anniversaries, holidays, places of rememberance, even smells and songs can trigger emotions. Be prepare for emotional roller coaster. Agree on strategies with others how to honour the person during these times and that could be as simple as story sharing.
Tracy Donachie, MSc in Performance Psychology.