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Understanding and reacting to grief

(Photo: Jordan News)
Emotions and feelings are an incredible aspect of humanity. They have a profound effect on our daily lives and dictate nearly everything we do. It is because of emotions that we are able to form bonds with nearly everything, including animals, careers, and most importantly people. اضافة اعلان

These feelings and emotions created from formed bonds can be so powerful that our bodies can experience changes. For example, if you see someone you like, and you might feel your heart start to race and your throat go a little dry. Unfortunately, because these feelings are so strong, when they are taken away from us through loss, we may have an extreme reaction. This feeling is called grief, and it can be overwhelming. Unless you are able to properly learn to cope with the loss, it can consume you and result in mental and physical consequences. 

Understanding grief

Grief is a natural feeling and comes, in part, from empathy. The stronger the bond was, the stronger the feeling of grief may be. Most commonly, grief is associated with death, and it may be the most intense due to the death of a loved one. There are many other causes of grief that may be less intense but ultimately, the cause of grief irrelevant and instead intensity is determined by the strength of the bond.

Other causes may include the ending of a relationship, whether it be a friendship or otherwise, as well as deterioration of health, loss of occupation, or trauma. 

Signs of grief

There are many manifestations of grief and everyone grieves differently. There is no right or single way to grieve and externally some may not even show any signs. Mentally, grief has the largest impact and may elicit many emotions. 
One such emotion is shock or disbelief, in which people may feel numb and have trouble believing or understanding the loss or outright deny it altogether.

The most common and universally shared emotion associated with grief is sadness. The feelings that come as a result may include emptiness, despair, yearning, or a deep loneliness.

Others may have more less common emotions as a result of grief such as guilt, fear, or anger. Guilt can be one of the most harmful emotions because it places blame on the person suffering from grief. They may feel guilty for the things they never said or did before their loss or worse yet, feel guilty for not being able to prevent a loss, even when there is nothing they could have done. This is most commonly known as survivor’s guilt and can prolong recovery.
Fear can come in the form of anxiety, helplessness, or insecurity about the future. In more extreme cases, grief may even cause panic attacks. This may be more common in situations of loss, such as being fired or in a breakup. In cases of death, especially of a loved one, the sufferer may feel afraid of their own mortality, worry about continuing life without the person, or fear the responsibilities they now have to face alone. With feelings of fear, support is integral. People may also feel anger when dealing with loss. Especially when it comes to death, they may be angry with, or blame the people around them; doctors, God, or even the person who passed away.

The manifestations are not only mental and emotional, but also physical. Physically, the signs are similar to depression and indeed there is a relationship between grief and depression. Every person is different but people going through grief may experience fatigue, nausea, lower immunity, weight loss or gain, aches and pains, and even insomnia.

Types of grief

There are many types of grief, and most people are familiar with the most common. Aside from the signs mentioned above, there are other forms of grief that may be considered atypical but the does not mean that they are any less valid or serious.

One such type is anticipatory grief. What makes anticipatory grief unique is that the grieving process occurs before the loss instead of after. This type is most commonly seen in people that have a loved one who has been terminally diagnosed. The loss is not a surprise to the individual, which allows them to brace for the loss but also may cause a greater sense of dread in the meantime. Regardless, the signs and manifestations are relatively similar to those of conventional grief. 

Another form of grief is disenfranchised grief. Disenfranchised grief is when a loss is devalued, stigmatized, or cannot be openly mourned. This may occur in people who feel as though their loss is not worth grief or more worrisome; when others do not feel as though their grief is valid. An example of this is when someone loses a pet that they adored. To them, it feels as real as the death of a relative but to others it may only seem like the death of an animal.

Complicated grief is one of the most severe forms of grief. Typically, the pain of loss should ease over time and although it may never fully resolve, it should ultimately lessen. With complicated grief, the feelings of grief are prolonged and do not lessen. Individuals may be unable to accept their loss and enter a pseudo-state of delirium, in which they search for their loved one in familiar places, experience intense longing, and even feel as though life is no longer worth living. Seeking professional help to recover from this form of grief is important.

Stages of grief

Everyone experiences grief differently but nevertheless; loss is such a universal aspect of life that psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was able to develop a theory surrounding the stages of grief in 1969. She observed that grief can be divided into five distinct stages and the majority of people will transition between them sequentially. Since then, there have been expansions and amendments to the theory, but the original theory still remains commonly used to explain grief.

Stage 1: Denial 
Denying a loss is the most common first step of grief and acts as a coping or defense mechanism. Pretending that there is no loss allows us to absorb the often shocking and surprising news more gradually. In conjunction with giving more time to comprehend, it also acts to lower the intensity of news temporarily.

Stage 2: Anger 
Anger is the result of suppressed feelings resurfacing. Instead of a coping mechanism, anger acts more as a masking mechanism. This can commonly take the form of blaming things and people around the individual, although the person knows that rationally they are not to blame. A person may use anger to mask the pain of loss. Those who are more in touch with their emotions and have a higher degree of emotional intelligence may not experience this stage.

Stage 3: Bargaining 
During this time, someone suffering from grief may feel vulnerable and helpless. In an attempt to try and regain control, they may even begin to bargain by forming “what if” or “if only” statements. It may act as a defense mechanism to delay sadness, confusion, and hurt.

Stage 4: Depression 
This stage is quieter in its expression. At this point the shock has subsided and you are in a better place to begin to accept the feelings and pain. Some may become more reclusive and although there is more clarity, it may still be confusing and difficult.

Stage 5: Acceptance 
Acceptance is the final stage of grief. It does not necessarily mean there is a happy ending, but it simply means that you understand and have processed your emotions. In the end, it may change you as an individual but that is normal.

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