Grief is a response to some kind of loss with which you had a strong sense of attachment, be it the loss of someone or something.
Grief is a strong and overwhelming emotion for everyone, regardless of where it comes from. You may associate grieving with the death of a loved one—which is often the cause of the most intense type of grief—but any loss can cause grief, including:
- Divorce or relationship breakup
- Loss of health
- Losing a job
- Loss of financial stability
- A miscarriage
- Death of a pet
- Loss of a cherished dream
- A loved one’s serious illness
- Loss of a friendship
- Loss of safety after a trauma
- Selling the family home
Grief is a long-term process and it takes time to recover from it and manage it. You don’t have to go through the process quickly and neither is it even possible.
There are normally 5 stages to the grieving process. These stages are:
Denial is often considered to be a defense mechanism. When you first learn of a loss, it is normal to be in denial and the first thought that comes to mind is ‘This cannot be happening’. Here, individuals tend to cling to a false or preferable reality.
As reality kicks in, you start to feel the pain of your loss. You may also feel frustrated and helpless which is normal at times. These feelings however turn into anger and are manifested in different ways. You might feel angry at the person who you lost or you might lash out at someone. It is important for you to know that it is okay to feel such things in order to get better.
During this stage, you start dwelling on what you could’ve done to prevent the loss. Common thoughts are “If only…” and “What if I had a few more days…”
In this stage, the sadness and pain of the loss actually sets in and you might feel depressed. You begin to understand the effect that the loss will have on your life. At this stage, you might want to express yourself by crying. You might also experience difficulty in sleeping and an irregular appetite. Feeling overwhelmed, regretful and lonely are also common emotions here.
When you come to a place of acceptance, it is not that you no longer feel the extreme pain of loss. In this final stage of grief, you start to accept the reality of your loss. While you might still feel sad, you are able to slowly move on with your life. You try to find your new identity by adapting to the situation and evolving day by day.
How to deal with the grieving process?
While grief is an inevitable part of life, there are ways to help cope with the pain associated with it. Some of these are:
- Acknowledge your pain.
- Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions.
- Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.
- You don’t have to go through it alone. Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you.
- Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.
- Recognize the difference between grief and depression.
Every person goes through the stages of grief in their own way. You may go back and forth between them, or skip one or more stages altogether. However, reminders of your loss, like the anniversary of a death or a familiar song, can trigger the return of grief. In such cases, it might be helpful to seek therapy from a professional to help deal with these feelings in the long term.