Grief is defined as a deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. We tend to associate grief with the loss of someone, however we can grieve over many things. I knew someone during my undergraduate program when I first started to teach a grief class that had to move away from where he had grown up. Why? His family had owned a piece of property for generations and they lost it to bad financial decisions. It hurt this gentleman so much to drive past it that he moved his family to another part of the state. Another person in a class I taught was grieving due to being laid off from a job they had been at for years and loved. Another person was grieving over the loss of a favorite horse, one they had grown up with. And others were grieving over the loss of loved ones.
So, what exactly is grief, it is the response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or some living being that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, grief also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical components. In my blog today I’m going to focus on the loss of someone or some living being, however I don’t want anyone to feel as if I’m minimizing their grief for something else.
I’ve taught grief classes off and on during my career, I was interested in the grief process after I loss someone very close to me due to suicide. It was a shock to the system and at the time I wasn’t able to cope emotionally and this led to other ways that I struggled. I was taught in my support group about the stages of grief. As I talk about them below keep in mind, not everyone is going to experience these stages and the stages are not linear.
Stage one is denial. People struggle to make sense of the loss, and struggle to accept the loss. They may minimize or deny the loss.
Stage two is anger. People might think “why is this happening to me?” They can get angry at themselves, others or even the person or being who died. They will try to place blame on someone else for the loss of their loved one.
Stage three is bargaining. They think “I will do anything to change this.” The person may try to change or delay the loss. I tend to this stage more with people during a breakup, they continue to text, check out their social media page etc.
Stage four is depression. People tend to think “what’s the point of going on?” This is when the person recognizes the loss and that they cannot change it. They tend to cry, isolate and struggle to move to the next stage.
Stage five is acceptance. The person has come to accept this loss, they understand the loss logically, even if they are emotionally struggling.
As you noticed in the stages that many of them focus on the cognitive side of grieving, thinking, and the emotional side. We tend to forget the physical impact grief can have on our bodies. With the recent loss of someone close to me, I gained a bunch of weight, it wasn’t that I ate more, in fact I ate less, it was I loss the ability to cook as it was too much effort, so I ordered food out. And the big one was I stopped exercising. Exercise can be so helpful when it comes to grief. Physical activity can release different endorphins in our brains which helps relieve discomfort and improve our mood.
Socially having a loss makes others very uncomfortable, people tend to not know what to say. People also tend to hover really close right after the loss and then get irritated, uncomfortable when we aren’t moving forward fast enough for their own comfort level. I know for me I lost people whom I thought were friends with a loss, one person even promised my loved one who died they would never leave me, six months later this person was no longer in my life. When we lose people the world stops spinning for us, however, for the rest of the world it continues to spin. This can lead people to get angry and frustrated with the people around them and they can lash out.
Spiritually I have had clients who became very angry with God and lost their faith altogether. Other clients have found their faith or they have become more spiritual. I have had a few clients who went on spiritual journeys while getting back in tune with nature.
There are three process, with the grieving process the first is acute grief. This is right after the loss; we feel overwhelmed as if we are drowning in our emotions. This process can last for months. Some of the symptoms are intense emotions, distress, sadness, lack of appetite, interrupted sleeping patterns. These symptoms will slowly diminish over time.
Complicated grief can happen for some people. This is when the acute grief symptoms are not getting better. They can last for years, and the person struggles to accept their loved one is gone. Some people get stuck in this stage due to thoughts of “If I move forward in my life, I’m forgetting my loved one.” and “I don’t deserve to be happy since they are gone.” If you are struggling with complicated grief, you will need professional help to start your healing journey.
Integrated grief is the final process in grief. This is the lifelong stage of grief. You have come to accept the reality of the loss and have resumed your daily activities. This doesn’t mean those intense feelings of acute grief won’t come back. They can and will. You might experience them on anniversary’s, their favorite holiday. When you see their favorite movie, TV show, or hear their song.
Remember that the stages of grief are not linear, this means you may jump around in the way you feel, the process of grief also is not linear, you may move into integrated grief and then an anniversary pops up and you move back into acute grief for a little bit. If you would like help with processing your grief. Please contact, Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.