Grief is a reaction to any form of loss. Bereavement refers specifically to the process of recovering from the death of a loved one. Both encompass a range of feelings from deep sadness to anger, and the process of adapting to a significant loss can vary dramatically from one person to another, depending on his or her background, beliefs, relationship to what was lost, and other factors.
No one way of grieving is better than any other. Some people are more emotional and dive into their feelings; others are stoic and may seek distraction from dwelling on an unchangeable fact of living. While many difficult and complicated emotions are associated with the grieving process, experiences of joy, contentment, and humor are not absent during this difficult time. Self-recovery, physical exercise, and strong social support can all contribute to alleviating some of the most challenging aspects of grief.
One of the many challenges associated with grieving the loss of a loved one, whether to death or the dissolution of a relationship, is adjusting to the new reality of living in the absence of the loved one. This often requires developing a new routine, envisioning a new future, and even adopting a new sense of identity. Grief work is rarely a joyous thing, but allowing one’s self to process through the pain in a healthy amount of time is good. It becomes not so good when a person gets stuck in the process. This complicated grief can bring on a whole host of other stressors itself.
Signs of Difficulty
Symptoms of complicated grief are nearly identical to those of acute or reactive grief, and again, the length of time it takes for a person to grieve is highly variable and dependent on context. But when symptoms are interminable without improvement, lasting for at least one year or more and interfering with one’s ability to return to routine activities, complicated grief may be implicated. Prolonged symptoms may include:
- Intense sadness
- Preoccupation with the deceased or with the circumstances surrounding the death
- Longing or yearning
- Feelings of emptiness or meaninglessness
- Difficulty engaging in happy memories
- Avoidance of reminders of the deceased
- Lack of desire in pursuing personal interests or plans
- Bitterness or anger
The Grief Cycle
Psychologists and researchers have outlined various models or phases of grief. In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified five linear stages of grief that most people are now familiar with:
Kubler-Ross originally developed this model to illustrate the process of grief associated with death, but she eventually adapted the model to account for any type of grief. She noted that everyone experiences at least two of the five stages of grief, and she acknowledged that some people may revisit certain stages over many years or throughout life.
Psychologist J. W. Worden also created a stage-based model for coping with the death of a loved one. He called his model the Four Tasks of Mourning:
- Accept the reality of the loss
- Work through the pain of grief
- Adjust to life without the deceased
- Maintain a connection to the deceased while moving on with life
If you or someone you love is experiencing grief or bereavement and feel the need to get some help getting through the process, give us a call (832) 995-5593. After working for almost three decades with folks who have experienced an amazing amount of loss, there is definitely help to make it through to the other side in a healthy way.