Loss comes in many forms- loss of a pet, loved one, home, job, relationship, health, identity, etc. Loss stirs up a mixture of emotions that span across the spectrum. More often than not though, the feelings associated with the loss take on a negative connotation.
It also does not discriminate, and will ultimately affect all of us. With that being said, I wanted to highlight several important ideas that could help lessen the sting.
The five stages of grief aren’t what they seem. Many of you are likely familiar with the so-called “five stages of grief” (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). They were originally presented by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross while she was working with terminally ill patients rather than the loved ones. The idea was that individuals experiences the stages in a step-wise fashion, working through one stage before moving onto the next. Although it offered a theory on grieving, many experts rebuked it. Even Kubler-Ross later pulled back on the notion of stages. Instead, we go through these feelings simultaneously and often bouncing between them through a roller coaster of emotion.
Stop everything you are doing. Depending on the type and impact of the loss, it might not be a bad idea to take a break. However, do not let the break consume you. Idle time is the devil’s playground. I often recommend to my clients that they continue with some routine to help them maintain normalcy. It helps you to stay grounded and acts as a reminder that there is still stability in other aspects of your life.
Focus on the negative feelings to make it through. In my personal opinion, I blame American society for this idea. This is one of the reasons I dread going to funerals in our culture. Everybody dresses in black, says their goodbyes, and cries about the individuals. When a death occurred in my family though, there was normally a service followed by a luncheon. After the luncheon, we would go to a family member’s house for a party followed by an after party. Following the service, my family would often share their fondest memories, tell jokes, and spin yarns of the recently deceased. Research across the board has shown that sometimes focusing on the positive feelings can help make the grieving process a little easier. Instead of mourning, celebrate.
There is a time limit on grief. The truth is people grieve forever. Directly following a loss, it can be expected that feelings will be the strongest and most chaotic. Working towards acceptance simply means that you are beginning to acknowledge the reality of the situation. It does not mean that you approve of what happened. The goal should be that the intensity of the emotions will gradually decrease over time. However, I will note that if the grief remains complicated/crippling over six months after the loss, it is advised to seek professional help.
Loss is part of life. Unfortunately, it is. However, it is merely one-half of the balance. With every loss though, there was something to be gained.
-The Caring Counselor
Feldman, D. B. (2017, July 07). Why the Five Stages of Grief Are Wrong. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/supersurvivors/201707/why-the-five-stages-grief-are-wrong
O’Neill, R. (2016, October 09). Is there a Time Limit to Grief? The Difference between Complicated Grief and Normal Grief. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from https://theothersideofcomplicatedgrief.com/2016/03/12/is-there-a-time-limit-to-grief-the-difference-between-complicated-grief-and-normal-grief/