Grief

 

I felt like I’m lost in a desolate, unknown place with no GPS to navigate. By losing that one person who gave up on life. Is this real, or is it a nightmare? I feel I’m switching between the two streams of consciousness. I want to go back in time and reset, this cannot be true and God cannot be unfair. Why did this happen to me, how will I live?

One of the most difficult experience of life is to lose a loved one. Grief is a normal reaction to death (bereavement) or other major loss in life such as loss of a relationship. Each person reacts differently to grief. Grief can take many forms and accompany us unknowingly at different points in our lives. It is lonely, consuming and complicated to understand. The mystery of “Why did it happen”, “Did I do anything wrong”, “How could I have prevented it” and “Life seems to have taken a revenge from me” are a few natural mental negotiations that play like a tape in one’s mind.

What are the signs that you are Grieving?

When we lose a loved one we are bombarded with a range of emotions. There is an immense feelings of sadness, emptiness and hopelessness. There is a constant void that is felt which becomes difficult to be fill. At times the individual is confused and finds it difficult to accept the reality.

There is also complicated grief where the individual deals with guilt, yearning, regret and anger which at times is not only directed at self but also at the deceased. While trying to make sense of their loss people can find themselves having varying degrees of thought process such as “It is okay she had lived a happy life” to “I should have gone instead of her, it wasn’t her time yet”. The responsibility of the departure also varies, at times there are situations where the individual is relieved that the deceased has passed such as when the person had been suffering from terminal illness like cancer.

You are grieving if you find yourself going through the following signs.

Emotional Signs:

  • Excessive crying
  • Increased irritability
  • Numbness
  • A reduced sense of identity
  • Lack of desire to pursue personal interests or plans
  • Anger
  • Detachment
  • Preoccupation with loss such as obsessive replay of the event of death
  • Avoidance of reminders of the deceased
  • Detachment and isolation from surviving friends and family
  • Inability to show or experience joy

Behavioural Signs:

  • “Hollowness” in the stomach
  • Tightness in the chest or throat
  • Lack or excessive sleep
  • Appetite changes
  • Over sensitivity to noise
  • Feeling shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness of muscles
  • Fatigue

What Are The Stages Of Grief?

Stage 1- Denial and disbelief are part of the first stage wherein a person finds it difficult to accept the reality of loss. Denying the event seems like the most comfortable thing to do. This is a temporary form of defense mechanism that is adapted to deal with the overwhelming emotions that one feels. It may take the form of thoughts like “This is unreal”, “This is a dream”.

Stage 2- This stage of grief where anger dominates and a person finds reasons to justify the event as the reality begins to set in. Questioning one’s faith in god, assessing their role in causing the event and blaming life are some the ways of sense making a person resorts to.

Stage 3- Bargaining does not come easy. It involves assessing the situation and finally being open to the idea that the loss has happened. The mind at this stage can be consumed into thinking “I’ll do anything to undo this past”.

Stage 4- Depression and Sadness- The fourth stage might be manifested in the form of difficulty in normalizing one’s life. Withdrawal, excessive crying and inability to carry on with life are common felt experiences of this stage. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, and a decreased appetite. You may feel overwhelmed, regretful, and lonely.

Stage 5- Acceptance completes the cycle of grief. It is a reminder to self that the loss has occurred, my life has changed but I will gather the pieces and still cope. . It can’t be changed. Although you still feel sad, you’re able to start moving forward with your life

It is not necessary that these stages occur in this particular order. There is no set pattern, you may either skip a stage or move back forth between them or be at 2 stages at once. Reminders of your loss, like the anniversary of a death or a familiar song, can trigger the return of a particular stage. Each individual experiences grief with different intensity and takes his/her own time to bounce back.

What To Expect In Grief Counseling?

History Taking
In this stage your Counselor would be developing rapport with you and provide you a safe environment to express your feelings and pain after a loss. The first session revolves around understanding the gravity of the situation and severity of emotions. It will allow you to develop a trusting relation with your therapist and gain an assurance that you are not alone in this journey, you have reliable person to guide you through the challenging phase.

Establishing The Goals
Here you and your therapist developed the goals you wish to achieve through therapy. At times it is to accept the loss, deal with the consequences (physical or psychological), go back to the daily routine or even develop the ability to express the pain. Many a times people seek grief counseling because they find it difficult to express the hurt with their family or friends (the male head of the family) in such scenarios counseling becomes a safe space for them where there is no judgements or biases.

Working On The Expression
If you are experiencing an emotional numbness, or a residual shock in reaction to the loss, and need assistance to return to a normal life your counsellor would help you deal with these confusing and overwhelming emotions. Grief counseling will focus on helping you get in touch with those feelings and express the feelings about the loss.

Starting To Cope
Grieving may be accompanied with physical and emotional symptoms as mentioned above, these poses a challenge to function in daily life. Activities of daily living may feel overwhelming. In these cases, grief counseling may focus on specific coping skills to help you resume some normalcy in his or her daily routine. For example, if sleep patterns are disrupted, grief counseling may include consultation with the individual's physician to assist with temporary strategies to increase sleep. If the individual is having trouble getting to work on time, behavioral strategies may be used as an interim measure to help the person return to aspects of normal daily life.

Achieving Acceptance
As you proceed in therapy your counsellor would be guiding you through the 5 stages of grief and help you reach the last stage. A final acceptance that loss has occurred and how to move on from there is done. This step may involve identifying ways to let go or say good-bye if the individual has not been able to do so successfully. Techniques such as asking you to pen down a letter to the deceased or having an imaginary dialogue where you can successfully unburden yourself with the guilt is done under the guidance of your trained therapist. Many a times you may be troubled with nightmares or disturbing dreams regarding the deceased, there are also addressed in grief counseling.

Follow Up
Follow up session to understand how each session goals have impacted me and how well you are dealing with loss/void/ emptiness. As dealing with loss is a process hence there might be days where you feel you are back to square one, hence follow up sessions are required to deal with such day

What Are The Results Of Grief Counseling?

  • Understand that grieving is a natural process
  • Being able to move on with one's life with no anger or guilt or regret
  • Accepting the physical and emotional loss of the individual,
  • Being able to remember the loved one without getting overwhelmed.
  • Able to return to normal day to day functioning.
  • Being able to have normal reactions when there is remainders of the loss such as anniversary of the death or the day of divorce.

In a nutshell grief counseling allows you an opportunity to have a positive adjustment when you experience the loss of a loved one or a relationship. It is time to address the feelings that prevent you from feeling good again. It is a messy territory. There is no defined course of getting over it. The loss is very personal and painful. However, this journey to self can be made easy by investing in taking care of oneself or by seeking professional help.

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