Grief is very often related to the death of a close person or a pet. Change is the only constant in life and people have to therefore face new situations. Grief and sadness are natural reactions to change and loss, caused by a death or by ending a relationship. The change can be caused by someone’s death, loss of a pet, a divorce, loss of a job, change of values, disappointments, health problems, low self-esteem, etc. Grief may become a valuable experience if it’s recognized and processed consciously. When the grief is not acknowledged and experienced with awareness, it may cause emotional instability and come on the surface repeatedly and lead to continuous suffering.
When people are facing a loss they will often go through a grief process to find meaning and accept the change which varies in time and intensity. This process is often called grief work which means passing through different stages to reestablish the regular rhythm of life. Going through grief means experiencing and coping with different emotions. The grief is dynamic and changeable in time and it’s not about “healing” or “resolution”, but rather adapting to a new situation and accepting it.
Different stages are distinguished which can change and vary in time. Those stages are shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Shock and denial
In the stage of denial, the people are unable to believe that the loss was real and they may be unable to feel anything.
In this stage, people can blame themselves, the one who died or others who are involved with the loss.
In this stage, people try to bargain with the higher power or someone/something that is attributed the control over the situation. The person can make promises to god through prayers or try to reach an agreement with someone else to make loss disappear.
In the stage of depression, the person starts partially accepting the situation and perceiving reality. Denial, hate, and bargaining have all failed to prevent the loss. People start feeling sad about everything that happened.
People start participating in regular activities to escape the sadness. During the testing stage, the person looks for suitable activities and it’s the beginning of acceptance. People reorganize their lives according to what has changed and they begin to look for a new balance and stability.
Grieving is a highly individual experience; there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and how significant the loss was to you.
The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.
Try to avoid big life changes. During the grieving process, people are more vulnerable. Therefore the decisions that are related to big shifts and affect others should be postponed till there is more emotional stability.
Sharing emotions is proven to be helpful. Talking about feelings supports the grief process. Repressing and ignoring unpleasant sensations prevents people from moving on.
Grief affects the body and the soul. Losing appetite for example is a natural process, but it shouldn’t last for too long to avoid harm to the body. Taking care of oneself through sports and pleasant activities supports the grief process. You can read books, take a walk or refresh your mind differently.
Seeking for help
If you find it difficult to deal with your emotions or perceive that the grief process has somehow stagnated then it’s recommended to talk with a mental help professional. If you would like to share your experience with someone who has gone through a loss then you may talk to a counselor who has had a similar experience in his or her life. Apart from individual counseling, there are grief therapy groups where people with a loss experience can share their problems in a supportive environment.