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strategies for understanding grief

We all encounter loss in our daily lives, be it the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a job layoff, or a relocation. In each instance, we grapple with the absence of something profoundly meaningful to us. Following any loss, the inevitable experience is grief, a process requiring us to navigate our emotions and redirect our lives.

Grief varies for each person, and there’s no one right way to go through it. It doesn’t follow a set timeline; some people experience it in waves or intense periods rather than a straightforward progression. For those with loved ones in hospice care, grieving often starts before death. The anticipation of the impending departure and life changes takes an emotional toll, leading caregivers to mourn the loss of shared routines and experiences.

In the late 1960s, psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed phases commonly seen in grief. It’s crucial to understand these phases aren’t strict, and individuals may skip or linger in specific phases. Revisiting a phase months later, even after assuming emotions were resolved, is not uncommon. While there’s no fixed way to grieve for healing or moving forward, some find comfort in recognizing typical phases when navigating their own grieving process:

  1. Denial: The person denies the loss, ignoring or refusing to accept the reality, such as resisting the terminal nature of a disease or refusing to acknowledge the person’s absence.
  2. Anger: Grief-related anger can be directed at the dying person, medical staff, or even God. Seeking guidance from a spiritual counselor can help navigate through this anger.
  3. Bargaining: In this phase, someone may try to make deals to keep their loved one alive, like promising good behavior in prayers or pleading with doctors for their loved one’s life in exchange for financial incentives.
  4. Depression: When efforts to save a loved one fail, depression sets in. This phase involves overwhelming sadness, crying, and spending significant time reminiscing about the person who passed away or the event that ended.
  5. Acceptance: The final stage of grief, where the person truly understands their loved one is gone or the changed has been made. They begin remembering and celebrating the person’s life without being overwhelmed by sadness.

Grief Coping Strategies

Coping involves cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage internal or external demands. When demands exceed capabilities, stress occurs, and coping strategies are used to adapt to the situation. Grief is an overwhelming experience that requires personal resources. Various coping strategies exist, but their effectiveness varies.

Problem-focused coping

It directs all resources toward solving a specific problem. It involves three coping styles:

  • Reflective: Analyzing and planning a way forward by reflecting on the situation and oneself.
  • Reactive: Engaging in impulsive and uncontrolled activities driven by distorted thoughts.
  • Suppressive: Initiating actions to deny the situation and avoid exposure to it.

Reflective strategies facilitate finding a solution, while reactive and suppressive strategies distance one from that possibility. Implementing problem-focused coping involves identifying and assessing the importance of the stressful situation, analyzing its causes, and initiating behaviors aimed at producing changes.

Emotional coping

It directs energy toward the emotions provoked by the problem. It includes emotional processing, recognizing and understanding feelings, and emotional expression, releasing and sharing emotions. Emotional coping can be carried out using reflective, reactive, or suppressive styles, involving analyzing emotions, expressing them impulsively, or avoiding them, respectively.

Coping Strategies

Getting over the loss of a close friend or family member takes time, but research suggests that it can help you achieve a renewed sense of purpose and direction in life.

  • Talk about your loved one’s death with friends and colleagues to understand and remember them. Denying reality can lead to isolation and frustrate your support network.
  • Accept your feelings. After losing someone, it’s normal to experience sadness, anger, frustration, and exhaustion.
  • Take care of yourself and your family by eating well, exercising, and resting. These habits help you navigate each day.
  • Support others dealing with loss. Helping them will also make you feel better. Sharing stories about the deceased can help everyone in coping.
  • Remember and celebrate your loved one’s life. Donate to their favorite charity, frame happy photos, name a baby after them, or plant a garden in their memory. Choose the most meaningful way to honor the relationship. Rituals like visiting significant places or carrying objects tied to the deceased can aid in processing grief.

Conclusion

Dealing with grief requires a personal approach. The discussed coping strategies offer options for those facing loss. Key steps include recognizing emotions, seeking support, and actively using healing strategies. Whether through problem-focused coping, emotional expression, or a mix, the crucial aspect is adopting a process that suits you. Coping with grief is a unique journey, and by being self-aware and using effective coping methods, individuals can find strength and healing in the face of loss.

Resources

  1. APA.org: The American Psychological Association (APA) provides its website visitors with a wide range of information and resources related to psychology, including research, publications, educational materials, and information about the organization itself.
  2. Child Mind Institute: Child Mind Institute’s website, provides information about their healthcare services, facilities, medical professionals, patient resources, and more.
  3. NIMH: On the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website, you can find a wealth of information related to mental health, research findings, treatment options, and resources for individuals, families, and healthcare professionals.

Helpful Links

If you or someone you know needs to talk to a professional, contact us now to schedule your initial virtual session. You can call us at 888-409-8976 or click HERE to schedule it online.

Take care and be open to the possibility of a brighter, more grateful tomorrow.

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