Updated: May 13
Our life, however good it may be, comes with some very difficult moments. Some are easy to move on from, while some take time. We all deal with these difficult moments differently. Some might feel anger, some feel sadness, some feel frustration and some even go through these difficulties with delight. But one of the hardest moments to deal with in life, is the end of it.
Sadly this pandemic has brought with it the negative emotions and helplessness of death, to the entire population of the world. We all have been afraid for our loved ones, we have all seen someone close to us- may be friends or family or someone we see on a daily basis- die. Many of us have faced the grief and emotions which come with death, first hand. Death is as inevitably linked to life as sunrise is to day. It would be hard to find an adult who has not witnessed the hopelessness when someone close to them passes away. To be honest many people face this sad truth in their childhood. Whatever the age you might be, when you experience grief for the first time, it will always be hard. Even with experience, most of us will never learn to be OK with it. But we can make it easier on ourselves, we can make it easier for people around us. Science has studied grief for ages. Psychology even has a specialised sub-field of study called Grief & Bereavement counselling. These years of specialised study in the field, have led us towards better understanding of the process of grief.
So what exactly is grief?
Grief is the internal feeling we experience as a reaction to a loss. Bereavement on the other hand, is the state of experiencing loss. It's true that people usually suffer emotional pain in response to any loss. May it be a job, a friendship, sense of safety, a home, it is painful; grief commonly refers to loss of a loved one through death.
Stages of Grief
If you have ever read an article relating to loss you must have heard of the Stages of Grief. These are the stages that psychologists believe, we all go through when we experience loss. The progression and intensity of each stage is usually different for each person and some of us even skip some stages. However acceptance of grief comes only after battling through these stages and it is this acceptance that leads to the ability to move on and find some normality in life.
1) Denial Grief is a very powerful feeling. It is not uncommon to react to extreme and sometimes unexpected feelings, by pretending the loss or transition does not exist. Denying it gives you more time to eventually digest and analyse the news. This is a typical defense mechanism that allows you to become numb to the severity of the situation. However, once you emerge from the denial level, the feelings you've been suppressing will continue to surface. You'll be faced with a lot of grief that you've been denying. That is a part of the grieving process and it can be tough.
2) Anger Though denial works by protecting us from reality by avoiding emotions of grief, anger works by replacing and hiding those emotions. In this stage many of your feelings and suffering are hidden behind your rage. This rage will be directed at anyone, such as the deceased, your ex, or your former employer. You could also direct your rage at inanimate artefacts. Although your logical brain realises the source of your rage isn't to blame, your emotions are too strong in the moment to feel that. Anger may take the form of bitterness, resentment or indignation. It might not be obvious anger or wrath. This stage may not be seen by all, and some can remain here. However, as your indignation subsides, you may begin to think more rationally about what's going on and experience the feelings that you've been ignoring.
3) Bargaining You may feel fragile and powerless during a period of grief. It's natural to try to retake control or feel like you might influence the result of an experience, when you're experiencing strong emotions. You could find yourself making a lot of "what if" and "if only" claims during the negotiating stage of grief. It's still not unusual for religious people to attempt to strike a bargain or make a vow to god or a greater authority in exchange for healing or release from their sorrow and suffering. Bargaining is a line of protection against grief's feelings. It allows you to put off your grief, confusion, or pain. Bargaining helps us postpone those negative emotions we are getting away from.
4) Depression You may be hiding from the feelings in the early stages of grief, attempting to keep one step ahead of them. However, at this time, you will be able to accept and work with them in a healthier way. You can and may want to withdraw from others in order to properly process the loss. That doesn't mean depression is simple or well-defined.
Depression, like the other forms of mourning, can be complicated and messy.
It's easy to get overwhelmed. You could feel foggy, slow, and befuddled. Depression could seem to be the unavoidable outcome of any defeat. However, if you are lost or unable to step past this point of mourning, speak with a mental health professional and they may be able to help you deal with the depression.
5) Acceptance Acceptance is not always a joyful or uplifting level of mourning. It does not imply that you have moved on from your sadness or loss. It does, though, imply that you've embraced it and come to terms with what it entails in your life right now. This stage can make you feel really different. That is perfectly understandable. You've seen a significant transition in your life, which has shifted your perspective on a variety of issues. Acceptance will help you see that while there may be more good days than bad, there will still be bad days. But in the end you will be fine!
So how do you deal with grief?
Seeking help during times of grief is usually hard. Most of us, at that time, feel as if our pain would be unfathomable to others, that others will not be able to understand the depth of the emotions that we have for the person whom we lost. This is true to some extent, however it is also true that many people around us can help us get through grief faster and help us deal with it better.
Here are some things which can help you deal with grief in a healthier way.
Expressing your emotions : You might be able to deal with the emotions of loss better, if you are able to express them in front of a family member, friend, or a professional. Try talking to a friend and express how you feel. If you do not want to have a conversation, you can just ask them to listen and they will be more than happy to do so. It's also recommended to keep a journal and expressing your emotions via writing, thus avoiding suppression and helping you to come to term with your loss.
Seeking help with your life : Seek help. Most of us, while going through bereavement, find it hard to take part in daily tasks or find interesting things to do. Asking for help in such scenarios might help you feel less lonely and help you deal with the day to day tasks better.
Returning to a routine : Losing someone you love might put you off your daily routine, especially if that person was a part of it. However returning to a routine will help you deal with emotions better and keep you away from negative thoughts. It is ok to avoid tasks which might remind you of the person, but other daily tasks and routines can be followed and some new things can be added to keep you busy.
Hobbies and interests : In times of grief we usually do not think of joining new hobbies or interests, but these can help you feel good about life. Most of us feel bad about doing things we love or moving on, as a sign that you are not respecting the memory of the person who passed away but that is not the case. Feeling good at this time does not make you a bad person and it does not disrespect the memory of the person who died. It just means you are trying to deal with the pain.
Finding professional help : The most important and probably the best way in which you can ease the process of grief, is seeking professional help. Counsellor, therapists, doctors and other mental health professionals are trained to be able to help you handle these emotions better. They understand the difference between individuals and know the process. They are better placed to understand you, your emotions and offer you solutions that fit you the best.
- Omkar Naik
We at Cinq in offer Grief and Bereavement counseling and Psychiatric consultation.
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