The terms ‘grief’ and ‘bereavement’ are often associated with each other. We expect people to go through the grieving process after the loss of a loved one. However, did you know that we can also experience grief after other forms of loss?
Grief is an emotional process we go through when we mourn the loss of anything we have had a deep and personal connection to; whether the loss happened quickly or over time. This could include:
- The death of a family pet.
- A relationship breakup.
- Job loss.
- Developing a chronic illness or permanent injury (mourning the life you used to lead).
- Changing schools.
The 5 stages of grief
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was a renown psychiatrist who developed the 5 stages of grief theory which she later refined along with David Kessler. The stages are:
Not accepting or not comprehending the situation. Willing things to go on as they did before. Suppressing emotions so they don’t become overwhelming.
Venting our pain, fears, and frustrations. Lashing out at those around us. Fighting the injustice of, “Why me?” or “Why now?”
Trying to regain control of the situation through negotiation with others (including God, doctors or the deceased). “If I do this… this will change”.
Feeling a deep emptiness. Withdrawing from the world. No motivation. “What’s the point?”
Acknowledging the situation and coming to terms with it. Finding a way to move forward.
Lack of understanding
Sometimes people won’t understand why you’re grieving and may give unhelpful comments like: “It’s been months/years. It’s time you moved on.” Or, “You’re still young, you’ll find someone else.”
Maybe they think you’re overreacting to the situation. For example, you might be devastated because your pet died, yet people expect you to function normally at work. This is known as disenfranchised grief and can compound the normal grieving process; potentially becoming complex grief which may evolve into depression.
Sometimes a current loss can trigger unresolved grief or trauma from past loss; exacerbating the intensity of emotions being felt. Maybe you don’t even understand what’s happening yourself, you just have this horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach and you don’t know what to do about it.
How to deal with grief
The 5 stages don’t run to any fixed schedule or deadline. People can drift back and forward between them – even experiencing more than one stage at a time.
There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief, but understanding the process helps. Allow yourself to express your emotions in what ever way works for you. Find outlets such as art therapy, sport or music.
It’s ok to talk about your loss if you want to. When this happens in a safe and supportive space it is often helpful as it allows you to express the emotions involved in your grief process (which will be different for everyone).
If you are worried about someone close to you who is experiencing grief, try to give them the space they need but don’t try to fix them. Be supportive, the benefit of just being present and listening helps healing to take place. It is important to remember that grief is a normal process that is as individual as the person. Allow them to find their own way through.
Sometimes it helps to talk to someone impartial. They can listen to you and help you to clarify your thoughts and emotions without judgement. Mindful Synergi offers counselling services which you may find valuable.
If you’re worried that you are not coping well, or you have noticed some destructive behaviour, seek help immediately. Your GP is a great starting point. You can also call Lifeline or the mental health crisis line in your state. You don’t have to handle it all on your own.