Overcoming Grief: Coping With Loss and Building Back Stronger
Every person on earth at some point in his life will experience a type of loss, a major or minor loss that will be inevitably accompanied by grief. Grief is an integral part of the human emotions’ palette, and every human has his own way of grieving, and that is fine. Grief is universal and there is no right or wrong type of grief, but there are healthy ways to handle the process.
What is grief really?
Grief is a natural response to loss.
It is the emotional suffering all humans experience in situations that they loose someone or something they care about. Some common examples of loss can be a death, a divorce, the loss of a job you loved, a relationship breakup, the “death” of a dream you had in life and others. Every loss feels different and the pain of it can feel overwhelming. Grief is very personal and consists of the set of all the uncomfortable emotional states we are experiencing through a loss such as sadness, anger, fear, shock, disbelief, guilt or other profound negative feelings.
Take for example, if the loss was sudden & unexpected e.g. as a result of accident, sudden illness leading to loss, surprise split), then there are two things the person has to deal with, shock and loss. And a loss not only affects our mental health but can causes also various implications in our physical health such as nutritional disorders, insomnia, vulnerable immune system. The bigger the loss, and if combined with a shock, the higher the effect in the human life and state of wellness, both physical and mental. The biggest challenge is the emotional trauma that is carried throughout the life until it is resolved.
Before dedicating the necessary time to process individual grief, the person should distinguish the difference between shock and grief. At many times of loss, the first natural response of the organization comes in the form of shock. Shock is a feeling of numbness and it feels like disconnecting from your body and the moment and being a distant observer. It is our body’s primary protective mechanism from intense pain. Shock mostly appears in unexpected incidents, where the person experiences a sudden loss or surprise for which he is not prepared for. Once the foggy feeling of the shock starts clearing, the pain becomes visible and the grieving process takes the lead.
Time only passes, it does not heal.
Coping with grief is one of the greatest challenges in human life and a big myth around grief is that “time heals everything”.
This is a trap that leads to a dead end for humans who suffer loss, as time is not the optimal remedy but just assists the individual to get used to the idea of the loss. This can be misleading and dangerous in various cases, as grief that has not been addressed openly and properly can lead to chronic unresolved trauma that will eventually affect more and more aspects of the individual’s life and may potentially cause bigger harm in the long run.
People who embrace living within a state of grief without taking any action will just perpetuate the loss and oblige themselves to live it over and over again. Extensive human behavioral research has been conducted around the topic of grief and has shown that people who were not aided or support to develop a “grief coping strategy” appear to become more frustrated or give up in life.
Grief may seem a complex process to go through, but it is not such a complex feeling to deconstruct.
When someone accidentally cuts his finger with a knife, he will immediately ask for a first aid kit or medical help in case the injury is big. It is a norm for people to seek for immediate care when an incident like this occurs to prevent further damage. But what happens when they suffer loss and possibly shock with it? In most cultures, there are mechanisms available in the social systems to deal with loss and to grieve. They appear ritualistic but they are well established and are very important to go through. However, what is always missing is how to deal with the shock when associated with loss.
Hence the grief actually never gets properly addressed and remains like an open wound, emotionally.
And the wound (or trauma) gets stored in the body. The issue is that humans oversee this situation and do not address a “mental injury” as they do with a physical ailment. As a part of our self-reflection and future planning, we asked various of our clients to declare if they still suffer a loss that occurred one, five, or more than ten years ago. Sadly, there were people among them that replied positively. So, if time healed all wounds wouldn’t 10 or 20 years be enough? The answer is no. Unresolved trauma and chronic grief led them to the point of still grieving a very old loss, having left them visible scars that they carry up until today. Time only passes, it does not heal.
Without action there is no change
There is still a high percentage of people who do not properly address loss and grief, and this is because the intensity of the negative feelings seems to be decreasing over time. This creates an illusion of healing and sets the real healing process at a low priority (or even no priority) level. Although, incomplete grief limits the human capacity to live a fulfilled and joyful life. The other illusion is that one may have dealt with the loss but overlooked the major impact from the shock, in case of sudden & unexpected loss(es).
The stages of grief
As mentioned above, grief is a very personal matter. It does not appear to be very neat or linear and it does not follow specific timelines or processes.
Although, there are five widely accepted stages of grief. The grief stages (also known as the Kübler-Ross model) were first examined in 1969 by a Swiss-American psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, who made these observations while working with critically ill patients. Her theory was adapted to other critical situations such as loss and it’s widely used today to define all those stages that humans go through during the grief process. The five main stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
Depending on each respective situation other stages my occur in the process and it is not sure that all people will experience all of the stages or in the same order. Another progression of this model is the 7 stages of grief that are: Shock and denial, Pain and guilt, Anger and bargaining, Depression, The upward turn, Reconstruction and working through, Acceptance and hope, a model much similar to the Kübler-Ross model.
Grief is personal but you are not alone!
Prioritizing ourselves and our long-term wellness and sanity is crucial.
The key to understanding and eventually overcoming grief is to accept that it is an integral part of life and that it may be very personal but at the same time it is very human and you are not alone in this. Consulting a relative, a friend or a mental health counselor on how to vet your feelings and find a sense of assurance in these very heavy and weighty emotions is one recommended strategy to navigate these troubled waters.
Peer support is also a good approach as humans can utilize their personal experiences to unite and assist each other in the healing process. When everything gets blurry it is crucial to seek for accurate and unbiased advice and guidance. Maintaining a healthy set of habits and staying socially active may seem an action of no point at the time of grief but you will thank yourself for not giving up!
The most important advice during a period of loss is to not try to do all things at once, give yourself all the necessary time needed, love yourself enough to take care of you and don’t try to change things that you cannot affect! Life goes on, and so must we.
Give Life to Life – Always by your side
In case you are currently experiencing a minor or severe loss and the grieving process is overwhelming you TALK TO US
We have already been where you are. We commit ourselves to helping others overcome challenges and get unstuck to build a purposeful life of joy. This is why the Give Life to Life team is offering a free 60’ session to everyone who wants to share his experience and discover new pathways to a prosperous future, free of trauma and full of hope Book your free session here.