While everyone knows what grief is, it is difficult to fully understand how it affects you until you experience it personally. Everyone has a different relationship with grief. There are so many different causes and symptoms of grief, as well as an endless number of coping methods someone might use. Grief is unique to every individual, but there are some commonalities between anyone who experiences it. Understanding the process of grief—what it is, how it manifests, and what methods of grieving exist—can help you confront and work through your own experience. The more you know, the easier it is to process your emotions in a healthy, constructive manner.
Grief and Its Common Causes
Understanding grief is the first step to understanding the grieving process as a whole. The most important thing to know is that grief is a natural emotional response. It can occur with any loss. A breakup, the loss of a friendship, or any other major life change can cause grief. Most people relate grief to the loss of a loved one. However, grief doesn’t necessarily indicate death. Grief is also a common response to a terminal diagnosis or other health issue. Any loss, no matter how big or small, can be painful. You should never feel ashamed of the grief you feel, no matter the reason behind it.
Symptoms of Grief
Like any significant emotional response, grief can manifest in a variety of emotional and physical symptoms. Someone suffering from grief might lose sleep, have a lack of appetite, or experience fatigue, aches, and other physical symptoms. Emotional responses, on the other hand, can be extremely varied. Some people experience shock, disbelief, or even fear around their grief. Others feel guilt and sadness. You may even feel anger and resentment due to the loss. All of these feelings are common reactions, even though they might be difficult to understand at the time.
The Five Stages of Grief
One of the most famous methods of interpreting and understanding the process of grief is through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief model. These stages help explain the emotions many people go through during their grieving process.
The first stage is denial, and it often exists as an attempt to rationalize the situation. Many people think, “This can’t be happening to me,” when they face a serious loss.
The second stage, anger, often manifests as a way to place blame. Someone might also argue that the situation is not fair or that it should be happening to someone else.
After anger comes bargaining. This stage often includes pleas and attempted trades in exchange for the return of health or the life of a loved one.
The next stage, depression, is what many people typically picture when they think of grief. The depression stage brings about feelings of intense sadness, some of which might prove debilitating to everyday life.
Finally, the last stage in the model is acceptance. Though someone in this stage might still be grieving, they have made peace with the loss and realize that they will be okay again.
The Grieving Process
While Kübler-Ross's model helps explain grief, it does not describe the entirety of the grieving process. Not everyone goes through every step of this model. Moreover, the grieving process is not always linear. Understanding grief and how it manifests is important to the healing process, but it is just one step in the journey. Remember that everyone grieves differently. Coping methods that work for one person might not work for another individual. It is crucial to find the techniques that help you work through your experience, come to terms with your loss, and reach a point where you can move forward with your life.
Support From Friends and Family Members
You should never have to work through your grief on your own. In many cases, you are not the only one dealing with your loss. While many people want to put on a brave face and take care of others, this can result in an unhealthy avoidance of the issue. If you allow yourself to lean on friends and family members, then you can all work together and take care of each other through the grieving process. You can also look for support from loved ones who are not experiencing the loss. While they may not understand the specifics of the situation, they can still offer support and advice based on their own experiences with grief. Dealing with grief can be painful or awkward, making it tempting to close yourself off from others. Resist that temptation and allow yourself to accept the comfort and support that your loved ones offer.
Support From Faith and Spirituality
In times of great loss or mourning, many people turn to their faith for support. Religious traditions and mourning rituals can provide great comfort to some people as they work through their grief. Religious communities, including leadership figures or fellow church members, can also be a solid source of support. Many people question their faith in times of grief or sorrow. An understanding peer or clergy member can provide a safe place for you to discuss these questions and thoughts. But you do not need a strict religion to draw comfort from faith. Acts of spirituality such as prayer, meditation, or worship can offer solace with or without a specific religion or faith in mind.
Emotional Counseling and Therapy Services
Professional services are another healthy option for individuals dealing with grief. Certain therapists and counselors devote their professional lives to helping patients develop a healthy and effective method of coping with their loss. Emotional counseling, bereavement therapy, and other services can help you break down your grieving process into concrete and achievable goals. This will help you work through your emotions and return to a healthy, functioning lifestyle. Grief counselors can also connect patients with support groups full of individuals who are experiencing similar situations. These professional services provide a place for patients to learn about grief, identify their own coping mechanisms—both healthy and unhealthy—and gain the skills and support necessary to reach a state of acceptance.
Grief is a difficult but natural part of any loss. That’s why Soulistic Hospice offers emotional counseling, spiritual support, and other forms of care for our patients and their loved ones. A compassionate and thorough approach to loss can help you understand and experience your grief in a way that leads to finding acceptance and meaning in the rest of your life.