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Ways of Coping with Grief

Death is the ultimate equalizer. It doesn’t excuse anybody. No matter what your economic status is, no matter how intelligent you are, whatever your race, religion, gender, age, or educational attainment is, sooner or later, someone you love will die. Loss is a universal tragedy.

And there is no singular path to deal with grief. There are several ways but there is no proven method that works for everyone.

However, having said, there are some established facts about grief based on years of research and anecdotal evidence.

1. It is not true that ignoring the pain will make it go away.

People sometimes use their jobs to escape from the pain. They fill their waking hours with so many activities that they are so pre-occupied that they set aside the pain. When they go home, they drink enough alcohol to put them to sleep. That is not helpful. Denial will only accumulate the pain. It is like dirty water being stored, the smell will eventually permeate the house. Pain, like any other energy, cannot be destroyed. It can be stored or transformed. Storing the pain will cause illness in the body and mental imbalance. So, the best way is to embrace the pain and deal with it.

2. It is not true that you need to be strong during times of grief.

Sorrow, anger, guilt, fear and frustrations are normal reactions that happen after losing a loved one. These are not signs of weaknesses. In fact, it is a sign of strength when someone can afford to cry in public. There is no need to protect your family from those emotions either. Being strong means allowing to cry and yet confident that it will not destroy you personally.

3. It is not true that grief has a timetable.

Time heals all wounds. Perhaps that is true. But there is no specific schedule for healing. For some, it takes a short period of time, like one year. Some people grieve for twenty years and still have not recovered from the loss. Take your time, but take your time in working it out, not denying it or forcing healing to happen. There is a flow that you need to follow.

4. Yes, there is a flow.

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is known to articulate what is now called “five stages of grief.” These were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness, but these are true to all other forms of grief and losses. These are:

Stage 1: Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.” “No, my son cannot be dead, he is too young.” “No, not my husband, I was with him the whole day yesterday.”

These are usual, normal reactions. We all go through denial. What is important is that we don’t stay in denial, we move to the next step.

Stage 2: Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”

Anger is the first step of acceptance. It is an intuitive reaction. Our protective mechanism triggers the alarm which releases anger. Sometimes, anger is directed towards others: the doctors, the driver who caused the accident, the family member who should have done more, etc. But oftentimes, anger is also directed towards the self. Again, it is important to allow the anger to flow, but not destroy the family.

Stage 3: Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”

Sometimes, people bargain with God. Or they negotiate with loved ones. But there will also be bargaining in the process.

Depression: “I’m too down to do anything.”

This might be the most difficult stage, but everyone has to go through depression. It is like jumping into the pool of pain in order to wash away any anger, guilt and shame that resulted from the death. It is a cleansing experience as it allows the person to plunge into the depth of the death experience. But depression is temporary. Soon, the spirit will be ready to move on.

Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

This is the final destination of the grieving process. Full acceptance. There is serenity. There is trust that the dead is not lost at all but his memory lingers. There is a renewed sense of gratitude for being alive.

So, how do we deal with the grief? Go through the process. That is the best way.

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Reflections

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I like providing inspirational food for thought and hope you will enjoy reading the articles on my site.

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It is a well-known fact that when there were no televisions or computers, reading was a primary leisure activity. People would spend hours reading books and travel to lands far away-in their minds. The only tragedy is that, with time, people have lost their skill and passion to read.

There are many other exciting and thrilling options available, aside from books. And that is a shame because reading offers a productive approach to improving vocabulary and word power.

It is advisable to indulge in at least half an hour of reading a day to keep abreast of the various styles of writing and new vocabulary.

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Wise Words

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I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.

– Leonardo da Vinci

Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.

Margaret J. Wheatley

There are two distinct classes of what are called thoughts: those that we produce in ourselves by reflection and the act of thinking and those that bolt into the mind of their own accord.

Thomas Paine