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Understanding the process of grief & tips to cope with loss of a loved one

Losing a loved one is an inevitable part of life, and coping with the loss can be very difficult.

A man crying [BBC]

Grief is the response to a loss, particularly the loss of a loved one and sets in when death strikes.

The process is associated with negative emotions such as sadness, anger or sorrow.

In her book, "On Death and Dying", Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, 1926, a Swiss American Psychiatrist averred that grief follows five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.

At the Denial stage, one becomes aware of the loss of a loved one but refuses to admit the truth either consciously or unconsciously.

It is often accompanied by a feeling of numbness with the person opting top carry on with life in denial as if nothing happened, holding the belief that the deceased is alive.

Anger is the next stage and this can be expressed in various forms and can be directed the deceased, self, the doctor or towards the reality of death itself as a person is struck with the reality that a loved one is no more.

At the bargaining stage sets in next, accompanied by many 'what if' questions in which a person wishes situations could be reversed and things done differently hopefully with a better outcome.

Depression is the fourth stage and comes with a feeling of powerlessness and a sense of loss of meaning of life without the deceased with the bereaved having intense feelings of sadness and longing.

At the final stage of acceptance, the bereaved comes to terms with the loss of a loved one and learns to live again, cherishing the memories shared with the departed. Notably, one may never “get over” the loss with the normal process running from a few days to a year.

While everyone grieves uniquely and it doesn’t help to compare yourself to others, here are some tips to keep in mind when going through grief.

Do not isolate yourself

Find a clear way to release your feelings and express your emotions. Do not suppress sadness

Grief recovery specialist Lianna Champ notes in her book “How To Grieve Like A Champ” that explains: “People are so afraid to cry, but there is healing in those tears. It releases stress hormones, reducing depression. “Don’t be afraid of sadness - fall into it, let it wash over you. It’s an equal emotion to happiness.”

While at it, leave nothing unsaid as people often get stuck in grief because they have unfinished emotional business with the person who has died.

Practice self-care and watch your health

While emotions, unplanned responsibilities and adjusting to life without a loved one can be overwhelming prioritise your needs and nourish your body by getting adequate sleep, food and hydration.

Exercise can also help. It gets you outside, clears your mind and helps you stay well.

Take time to mourn

While some may avoid mourning by upping their schedules and keeping themselves busy, experts note that it is important to take time to mourn.

Taking some time out of work to mourn the loss of your loved is an important part of grief.

Ask for help

Working through the emotions that accompany grief can be overwhelming and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. You can consider getting a therapist to help you go through your healing process. As a professional, a therapist will also know the right steps to take you through your grieving process.

Grief is something everyone goes through at some point in life.

Talking to someone you trust or a therapist in a in a safe space and you can freely open up about your feelings without fear can be therapeutic and helpful in coming to terms with the loss of a loved one.

Be patient with yourself and focus on healing

Grieving could take days or years and everyone grieves uniquely.

The is no single approach that works for all hence you should do things in your own time, there’s no rush as you have to do what is right for you while learning to manage grief, seeing a positive future and living without the departed loved one.

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