Monthly Archives: September 2013

Journey through Grief Part 1 – What is grief? What should I expect?

Grief is something that will touch all of our lives at one time or another. Over the next few blog entries I plan to give an overview of grief, and what to expect. I also hope to help answer the question “What could I do to help.”

First, what is grief?

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced the “five stages of grief” in 1969. The stages were based on her study of patients with terminal illness. Since we have really began to apply these to life as a whole, including loss of friends, marriages, family members, and even jobs.

The five stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
  • NOTE: It is important to know that the experience will not look the same. Some may linger on one phase longer than others, go back and forth, or skip a stage entirely. Depending on numerous factors, individuals will display grief in different ways.

  • Culture-Does their culture prohibit open grief? Or is there an extended grieving period?
  • Family-Does the person have strong family relationships?
  • Faith-Studies show that the strength of an individual’s faith will factor into the grieving process.
  • Previous Loss-The amount of previous loss the person has experienced can either help the individual process grief, or the reverse can be true.
  • Common symptoms of grief

  • Shock/Disbelief– Shock has been described as the brain’s way of protecting itself. You may feel numb, or just “going through the motions”. As you begin to process grief, the shock begins to wear off.
  • Sadness – Deep sadness in likely the most experienced symptom, and the one that most people recognize. A few things that can be felt during this time is emptiness, despair, loneliness, and a sense that life may never return to normal. Crying is common at this phase.
  • Guilt – You may feel guilty because of what you said/did or didn’t say/do. This is especially true of a sudden loss. When the loss gives preparation time, you have opportunities to “say goodbye”, but sudden losses do not, so they typically are harder to deal with.
  • Anger – You may feel anger at someone, yourself or God over your loss. This is a normal phase of grief. When you encounter someone who is grieving, do not take this personal is you seem to be the target of their anger. They are processing, so don’t take it personal.
  • Fear – Fear will take many forms. If it is a job/livelihood, concerns will be over how you will make ends meet. If you have lost a spouse, you may be concerned about the day to day tasks. For example, if your spouse handled the bills, you will be concerned that you are forgetting something, may not have enough money.
  • Physical symptoms – Grief can often involves physical symptoms including upset stomach, tiredness, inability to sleep (or sleeping “too much”), weight changes, aches and pains, and insomnia.
  • Lastly, here are some notes from Helpguide.org’s article on Supporting a Grieving Person:

    There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief does not always unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can be an emotional roller coaster, with unpredictable highs, lows, and setbacks. Everyone grieves differently, so avoid telling the bereaved what he or she “should” be feeling or doing.
    Grief may involve extreme emotions and behaviors. Feelings of guilt, anger, despair, and fear are common. A grieving person may yell to the heavens, obsess about the death, lash out at loved ones, or cry for hours on end. The bereaved need reassurance that what he or she feels is normal. Don’t judge them or take his or her grief reactions personally.
    There is no set timetable for grieving. For many people, recovery after bereavement takes 18 to 24 months, but for others, the grieving process may be longer or shorter. Don’t pressure the bereaved to move on or make them feel like they’ve been grieving too long. This can actually slow the healing process.

    Once you understand grief and what to look for, you can be in a position to help others, and ultimately yourself.

    My next article will cover what grieving people need and how you can help.

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