Grief: How to Survive the Loss of a Loved one?
When a teddy bear is taken away from a 4-year-old, it seems like the end of the world for them. The bond of affection and fondness between them rips apart in the absence of the bear and the child is left with loss and sorrow. Death does the same to us, doesn't it? But in a much more profound sense. Despite knowing the inevitability of death, we’re still overwhelmed with emptiness, shock, and despair when a loved one passes away.
Grief is the natural emotional distress we experience when we lose our beloved. Be it a neighbor, a celebrity, or even your pet. When grief shrouds us, we need to give ourselves the grace which we keep for others to bear the storm of loss and pain. There is no set timeline for grief; some people may heal sooner while some people can take years to heal.
“Grieving is a form of learning — teaching us how to be in the world without someone we love in it,” says Mary-Frances O’Connor, a psychology professor at the University of Arizona.
Grief, being the underlying emotion, can shapeshift into a lot of different feelings and behaviors like:
Shock (when the death is unanticipated),
Intense Sadness or Depression
Anger towards God/Doctor when we may blame them
Fear of managing things alone,
Regret and Guilt over not trying enough
Withdrawal from social interactions
Lack of Interest in daily chores
Smoking/Drinking to cope
Stages of Grief
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American Psychiatrist, proposed the 5 Stages of Grief theory in 1969. These stages, reorderable and skippable, are the stations we pass as we undergo the process of grieving. Watching case studies and studying life experiences, the model was modified to make it a 7-staged process.
Grieving looks different for everyone. We find our way of dealing with heartaches and no textbook can ever teach us ‘The Apt way of coping with Grief’. It is important to understand, acknowledge and respect that.
Image Source: Morning Star Community Service
The trauma that grief brings with it can disrupt the quality of life, our relationships, our job, our health, diet, and sleep. So, we must channel our emotions more healthily. Although the way one chooses to express their grief varies, a few tips to understand, sort, and simplify the grieving process would be a good navigator through the journey…wouldn't it?
Spend time with Loved Ones
Take your time to process the loss but make sure the pain of grief doesn't let you retreat into your shell. Seeking support from family and friends and sharing your feelings helps dilute your grief and reminds you of all the love that’s still around.
Express your Emotions
Giving an outlet to your thoughts and feelings can save you from getting consumed by overthinking leading to loneliness and gloom. Know that it's okay to cry. Open a journal and pen down what you think/feel or pick up the brush and paint your woes!
Find Solace in Religion & Support Groups
If the death of a loved one feels like a wound, a good way to bandage it is by drawing healing powers and comfort from your faith. Practicing spiritual rituals like meditation, going to a shrine, and praying, can feel calming and fulfilling. Also, connecting with people who are going through similar experiences, by joining clubs or support groups, can be helpful and validating.
Get Professional Guidance
If your agony seems too overwhelming and prolonged, a visit to the therapist/counselor can help you untangle your grief and get more insights on how to deal with your loss.
Indulge in Self-Care
While grieving, you must ensure that you take good care of yourself…both physically and mentally. Continuing your hobbies, doing things that you love..be it cooking, jogging, or simply reading can prove to be a great mood lifter!
Cherish Beautiful Memories
In this transient world, it's the memories that leave eternal footprints on our souls. Take a trip down your memory lane and remember the person with smiles. Laugh at the silly times, frame pictures, and recall stories. Death always leaves a void. Fill that emptiness with positive memories of the deceased.
Prep yourself for Big Moments
Trips, family gatherings, weddings, or birthdays may seem to bring a flood of nostalgia and yearning. Train yourself mentally before these events. Revere their absence by lighting candles or listening to their favorite song.
Moving on may seem like a mammoth task. But moving on is not severing yourself away from the dead but, learning to absorb and accept the reality and learning to grow and live with the love and joy they left behind.
Little by little we let go of loss…but never of Love
Written by: Aqsa Merchant (BA Psychology, SY, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda)
Proofread & edited by: Rubal Prajapati (Counseling Psychologist and Ph.D. Scholar at Bharathiar University)