Grief is a deep sadness or sorrow that results from a loss. The loss can be from something big or small. It can be from something positive or negative.
Examples of things that cause grief include changes in:
- A job (new or lost job, a promotion or demotion, or retirement)
- Relationships (getting separated or divorced or having a child leave home)
- Health (illness or injury)
- Life matters (death of a family member or friend, loss of property or moving to a new place)
Bereavement is a process of grieving most often linked with the death of a loved one. There are many factors that shape our response to a loss such as death. These factors include:
- How sudden the loss was
- Cultural background
- Religious beliefs
- Financial security
- Social network
- History of other losses or traumatic events
Each of these factors can add to or reduce the pain of grieving. Trying to deny grief or avoid it only seems to create more serious problems later on. To come through the process in a healthy way, it is best to understand what coping with loss is all about.
Stages of Grief
Before a griever can feel “whole” or healed, they generally go through 4 stages:
1. Shock. The person feels dazed or numb.
2. Denial and Searching. The person:
- Is in a state of disbelief
- Asks questions such as “Why did this happen?” Or “Why didn’t I prevent this?”
- Looks for ways to keep their loved one or loss with them
- Thinks he or she sees or hears the deceased person
- Just begins to feel the reality of the event
3. Suffering and Disorganization. The person:
- Has feelings such as guilt, depression, anxiety, loneliness, fear, hostility
- May place blame on everyone and everything, including themselves
- get physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, constant fatigue, shortness of breath
- Withdraws from routine and social contacts
4. Recovery and Acceptance. The person:
- Begins to look at the future instead of focusing on the past
- Adjusts to the reality of the loss
- Develops new relationships
- Develops a positive attitude
The normal period of grieving the loss of a loved one lasts from 1 to 3 years, but could take longer.
Questions to Ask
Have you just tried to commit suicide or are you planning ways to commit suicide?
Are you thinking about committing suicide?
Are you abusing medication and/or alcohol to make yourself feel better? Do you need these to cope or “numb” your pain?
Do you have one or more of these problems due to grief?
Have you refused to sort through the deceased’s belongings after a significant time?
- Eat regular meals.
- Get regular physical exercise such as walking.
- Allow friends and family to assist you. Tell them how you really feel. Don’t hold your feelings inside. Visit them, especially during the holidays, if you would otherwise be alone. Traveling during the holidays may also be helpful. It is also important to reminisce. Being reminded of the past can be essential to the process of coming to grips with a loss.
- Try not to make major life changes such as moving during the first year of grieving.
- Join a support group for the bereaved if someone close to you has died. People and places to contact include your EAP representative, churches or synagogues, funeral homes, and hospice centers.
- Contact social agencies such as the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) and local mental health centers. (See “Places to Get Information & Help” under “Grief” on page 376 and under “Senior Citizen Health” on page 377.)
Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism
© American Institute for Preventive Medicine