GRIEF AND BEREAVEMENT

GRIEF AND BEREAVEMENT

Ankita Gandhi Kamath

The loss of a loved one can be very stressful and challenging.
Grieving is a painful and an overwhelming process. While grief is a
reaction to any form of loss, bereavement refers to the process of
recovering from the death of a loved one. Grief is the psychological-emotional
experience following a loss of any kind (relationship, status, job, house,
game, income, etc.), whereas bereavement is a specific type of grief related to
someone dying. Each one of us has a unique way to deal with grief and
bereavement. One may experience a range of emotions from shock to anger to
guilt, sadness and even disbelief. The manner in which these feelings are
experienced may vary drastically from one individual to another depending on
one’s

personality, coping skills, belief system, relation with the
deceased person etc. This will also determine how a person would cope and
adjust with their loss. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there
are healthy ways to cope with your loss, find new meaning, and move on with
your life.

Symptoms of grief:

Grief can be expressed and experienced both emotionally and
physically. For instance; shock, disbelief, sadness, loneliness, guilt and
fatigue, nausea, fever/headaches, aches and pains, sleep disturbances
respectively.

Stages of Grief:

Psychiatrist
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who introduced five linear stages of grief, originally
developed this model to illustrate the process of grief associated with death
and illness and how one progress emotionally through these following five
stages:

Denial: (“This can’t be happening to me”)

Anger: (Whyis this
happening to me?” Who is to blame?”, “Why did he/she leave me aloneand
go?”)

Bargaining: (“I will do anything to get him back”, “God
take me instead”, “I wanted him toto see me getting married” “If only I
would have taken medical attention on time”) Common thoughts are “If only…” and
“What if…” statements

Depression: (“I’m too sad to do
anything” “I miss my loved one; why go on?” “I havenothing to
live for now?”)

Acceptance: (“It’s going to be
okay.”; “I can’t fight it; I can’t change what happened” “I’m atpeace
with what happened.”)

While these stages help us understand the process of grief it is
important to note that the linearity of these stages is questionable. Some
people have all of these feelings, while others may not experience any, or
experience them in a different order. You do not have to go through each stage
in order to heal. Natural process of healing is quite a unique process. Our
grieving is as individual as our lives.”

Coping with the grieving process:

There
are many ways to cope effectively with your pain.

  1. Acknowledge your pain and express your feelings with your close
    family members and friends.

  • Give yourself time to heal. Be patient and accept that grief can
    trigger many different and unexpected emotions with varied intensity at any
    given point in time.

  • Share your feelings with others who are experiencing similar
    losses while keeping in mind that your grieving process will be unique to you.

  • Avoid making impulsive decisions for your life before you accept
    and learn to adjust with this new life without your loved one.

  • Take care of your physical and mental health. Join support groups
    and seek professional help if necessary.

How to help others grieve?

Sometimes we truly want to help a friend or family member to help
them through the grieving process. However many of us find it awkward or feel uncomfortable
to genuinely support someone who’s grieving. We are so afraid that we might do
more harm than good and therefore eventually choose to do nothing at all. This
prevents us from being empathetic, proactive, or from reaching out to someone
who is grieving.

Following
are a few ways you may help:

Accept the situation and express your sorrow
and concern. Talking about the deceased person is always difficult especially
with the societal stigma attached to it and also with the lack of knowledge as
to how to comfort or help the grieving person. By expressing your concern and
asking about the loss shows you’re open to talk about it and that you attempt
to offer support.

Encourage them to talk about their feelings of loss, how their loved
one died and share memories of the deceased. This helps them to process and
work towards accepting the reality.

Being non-judgemental and just being there helps the person to open
up as they share their varied range of emotions. Sometimes by crying, blaming,
getting angry or smiling. The person needs to feel that it’s ok to have this
range of emotions without any criticism or judgement. Active listening helps
your loved one heal. Just by patiently listening and just being there can be
comforting.

Share but don’t compare if you’ve gone through a
similar loss. Remember, though, that grief is an intensely individual
experience. No two people experience it exactly the same way, so don’t claim to
“know” what the person is feeling or compare your grief to theirs.

Be honest and genuine in your communication
and avoid platitudes. Be patient. Remember that it can take a long time to recover from
a major loss. Make yourself available to talk. However do not give false hopes.
Platitudes such as: “it was his time to go” “we all have to die one day” “Time
heals all wounds” or “They are in a better place” are not helpful at all. You
can’t be saying “it’s ok” when it is clearly “not ok”

Recommend professional help when you feel someone is
experiencing too much pain and is unable to cope alone.

When to seek professional help for grief?

While it is natural to feel sad by the bereaved person for the
significant loss however, if you aren’t feeling better over time, or your grief
is getting worse, it may be a sign that your grief has developed into a more
serious problem, such as complicated grief or major depression.
Complicated grief occurs more often after a death that feels traumatic, perhaps
because it was premature, sudden, violent, or unexpected. If you feel intense emotions
or are in an intense state of mourning and the pain of your loss stops you from
moving ahead in life than it is advised to seek expert help.

Contact a professional therapist or a counsellor if you:

  1. Feel hopeless and worthless
    and think like life isn’t worth living

  • Indulge in self-blame,
    self-harm or even hurting others.

  • Isolate yourself and are
    socially withdrawal for more than months

  • Experience intrusive,
    upsetting memories, thoughts, and images of the deceased

  • Constantly yearn for the deceased

  • Unable to accept the
    reality of the death

  • Experience frequent
    nightmares and panic attacks

  • Feel extremely lonely

  • Don’t experience any moment
    of joy or pleasure

  1. When you don’t feel like
    taking care of your health

  1. Frequently have pains and
    aches and fatigue

  1. Loss of appetite and
    disturbed sleep

  1. Wish you had died with your
    loved one

  1. Feeling that life is empty
    or meaningless

  1. Are unable to perform your
    normal daily activities

Other reasons to seek professional help include history of addiction
and clinical depression or anxiety, increased use of alcohol, tobacco or drug
abuse, also to help rule out any other comorbidity with any other psychiatric
or clinical disorders.

With the help of a mental health professional one can equip themselves
with adaptive coping strategies, rethink their
purpose in life, build insight and prevent major emotional damage. While
one may not be able to take away their pain completely but by creating
awareness regarding the same we can cultivate hope and support in their journey
towards healing for both the bereaved individuals as well as friends and
families who would want to offer help to their dear ones.

Ankita
Gandhi Kamath,

Consultant
Clinical Psychologist,

Mind
Care Clinic,

(Bandra
west, Mumbai)

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