Grief and Loss
Cloudy Dark Days
Approximately ten of my friends and family members have gone through great loss this year – including myself and I am sure many of you who are reading this are also grieving, know someone who is grieving or has gone through the grieving process. I thought it would be beneficial to write a little bit about grief to help those who are mourning to understand what they are experiencing.
Grief is a natural reaction to loss. It is a strong emotion that is overwhelming regardless of where it stems from including the loss of a loved one, relationship, pet, health, dream, and even a job – and the list goes on!
Grief is real, should never be overlooked and a person should never be told to get over it. Grief is something that you don’t get over but must go through to get to the other side.
And I want to encourage anyone who is reading this who is currently grieving a loss that the pain can ease through time. Give yourself time to mourn.
Signs of Grieving:
- Decreased social interaction and social participation
- Reduced performance in daily roles and routines
- Not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much
Feelings Associated with Grief:
- Emotional numbness
- Decreased desires
Grief is both a personal and universal experience, varies and is influenced by the nature and impact of that loss. Two people can have the same loss and experience the impact of that loss very differently. Some grieve internally and may not cry while others may express their grief very outwardly.
People who grieve must realize they cannot control the process and must be prepared for its various stages. Talking to others who understand the process of grief and are patient in helping to sort through these strong aching emotions can be of great benefit. This includes speaking to your doctor, grief counselor, joining a grief support group or talking to a trusted and patient family member or friend.
For me, a friend reminded me not to hold back my tears, but to cry if I needed to during my grieving process. She reminded me that tears are liquid pain and must flow to eventually heal. I did – over-and-over again until I was all cried out and felt a ton better! – Thanks Steph!❤
Grieving can last for months or even years. Generally, pain decreases as time passes and the bereaved begins to adapt to life with the loss.
Grief generally occurs in five (5) stages, but in no specific order; and are a guide in the grieving process to help the bereaved to understand where they are in the process (Axelrod, 2019).
1. Denial and Isolation.
Denial is the initial response when first learning about shocking news. For example – “this can’t be happening”. The bereaved also may rationalize. This is a protective measure and is normal when dealing with overwhelming emotions acting as a buffer to numb emotions.
As denial and isolation begin to decrease and reality begins to set in, intense painful emotions are deflected as another protective measure from becoming too vulnerable to the pain; and therefore, is redirected and expressed as anger. Feelings of anger may be directed to anything and anyone.
Bargaining is a normal but weaker line of defense and is often done to regain control through a series of “if only” statements such as:
- If only we had known about this sooner….
- If only God had….
- If only we had been there….
- If only if I had said “no”….
Most times, guilt accompanies bargaining because we begin to feel that we could have done things differently to have helped to save our loved one.
Two types of depression are associated with grief. The first is a response to allegations and consequences relating to the loss of your loved one. Regret, guilt, blame, sadness, and regret lead to this type of depression. The second type of depression is more subtle where we begin to privately and quietly prepare to separate and bid farewell to our loved one.
Reaching the stage of acceptance is truly a gift because not everyone is able to achieve it. When death is unexpected or sudden, some are not able to move beyond the stages of denial and anger. However, it is important to note that acceptance not a period of happiness but generally marked by withdrawal and calm and must be distinguished from depression.
Ultimately, mourning is an intensely personal experience. No one can help you go through it more easily or will understand all your emotions, but others can help you to go through the process. The greatest thing you can do is to allow yourself to go through the process and mourn the loss as it comes over you. Resisting it will only prolong the natural healing process (Axelrod, 2019).
Grief and Loss: How Occupational Therapy Can Help
When someone goes through grief and loss, it becomes difficult to maintain and tend to the demands of everyday living. It is important that a person goes through the grieving process while continuing to perform daily tasks such as rearing children, maintaining relationships, going to work or school, household management and various other areas of life. This can be a very difficult thing to do especially if all a person desires to do is to socially isolate themselves from family, friends and responsibilities (which is the struggle for many).
Occupational therapy specializes in helping people to go through the grieving process in a healthy way while staying engaged in activities and tasks so that other areas in life do not fall a part. Areas that Occupational Therapy may be of service is educating and training in coping strategies to increase or maintain emotional stability; and educating the client, family, and friends on the grieving process, what is expected and how to be supportive.
For more information and/or help, please contact Life Wellness at Christa@OTWellness.com.
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (3rd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, S1–S48. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.682006
Axelrod, J. (2019). 5 stages of grief &loss. PsychCentral. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/