Grief occurs differently for different individuals. While many people associate grief and the grieving process with the death of a loved one it can also occur because of any type of significant loss in life. This could include the loss or death of a pet, the loss of a job, the breakup of a relationship, divorce or even a change in life such as the loss of a job, addiction, rejection, chronic illness or the loss of social or financial status.
Grief is a very normal reaction or response to a loss but sometimes it can seem to overshadow all aspects of our life. Allowing ourselves time to grieve and heal after a loss is critical to our overall emotional well-being.
THE GRIEVING PROCESS
american soldier grievingOne model of the grieving process, known as the Five Stages of Grief, was first developed by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969. She developed the model based on her work with terminally ill individuals as well as their families. In this model the stages are not meant to be prescriptive but more general in nature, allowing for individual differences and experiences.
In general the stages of grief will include:
1. Denial – refusal to accept the pending death or life changing loss. This is often a relatively short period of time where information, education and support is critical.
2. Anger – anger at others, anger at self or anger at the situation are common reactions to the pain of being forced to accept the loss has happened. This can sometimes seem irrational and may drive support systems away at a time they are needed the most.
3. Bargaining – attempting to bargain or reach some type of compromise with a higher power, another person or even the issue itself as a way to create hope and postpone the reality of the loss that is happening.
4. Depression – this may look different to different people and with different types of losses. Often it includes regrets, fears and lack of certainty that causes us to worry and stress.
5. Acceptance – this is the opposite end of the spectrum from denial. At this point the individual accepts that the loss has happened and is able to being to move forward.
It is important to realise that many people do not get through all five stages of grief. People that are trapped in the stage of depression can become clinical depressed.
Regardless of the model used to describe and define the grieving process, researchers agree that individuals experiencing loss or trauma will benefit from:
- Talking about their feelings and becoming capable of expressing grief
- Allowing the grief process to occur naturally and in a meaningful, personal way not the way
- Expressing their feelings in a way that works for the individual. This may be through journaling, art, dance, physical exercise, getting out in nature or reconnecting with people
- Staying physically active, living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding problematic short term coping strategies like drugs or alcohol
Finally, seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed over a loss or a life change. Counsellors, therapists and coaches can help you in working through the grief process to continue to move forward in life even through very difficult events.