Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Grieving Over Our Losses in Life

Hello Everyone,

One of my dearest friends recently lost her battle with cancer, and I have been grieving about it ever since.  Well, I actually started grieving before she passed, when I realized that her situation was terminal, but I was probably holding out hope for a miracle, too. Because of this recent loss, I thought I would revisit the grieving process for myself, and share what I know about it with you as well.  I hope you find it useful.

We grieve over a multitude of things in our lives - moving, a poor grade, losing something or someone special, a break up,  pets dying, a loved one's addiction or illness, the list goes on and on.  As a matter of fact, you could be grieving over several things at the same time, and not even realize it.  We all grieve in our own way. The process can go quickly, or take a lifetime. No two people will experience the process the same.  Some people get stuck on one of the steps of grieving. It can affect their mental health, and their relationships with other people.

There are steps to grieving, and I will list and explain them here.  Just know that it's not a template for exactly how things will go, because some people skip a step, and some people just don't allow themselves to feel or to grow. Also, there is more than one model out there for the steps of grieving. Here's the one that I'm used to working with and talking about:

Step One:  Shock
This usually happens when you discover the loss.  The feeling can be described as numbness. A person might not even react the way you think they should.  The mind is trying to take it all in, but it's just too much.  This initial stage can be helpful, if you have to hold a conversation with someone about the loss, for example, because you might be able to keep from having an emotional outburst.

Step Two:  Denial
Sometimes this step comes along with the shock.  You don't believe it could be happening, and you might even talk yourself out of believing it.  For example, if your parents told you they were divorcing, you might think they're just angry, and will change their minds.

Step Three:  Anger
Oh yeah, you can get angry about the loss, and you might even have an unanticipated explosion. A defense mechanism called displacement can happen during this stage, where you take your anger out on someone or something else.  Has anyone ever punched or kicked a door or wall at your house? Have you yelled at someone who isn't even related to the loss?  Yup, displacement is actually a fairly common response.

Step Four: Guilt
This is best described as the "If only...." stage.  A person might blame himself or herself, by thinking things like, "If only I hadn't let the dog out, he wouldn't have been hit by a car."  Or, "If only I could have convinced him to quit smoking." Or, "If only I hadn't been born, my parents wouldn't be divorcing."  Hopefully you can see where this type of thinking is not healthy, and will do no good whatsoever.  Once a person realizes this, he or she can move on.

Step Five: Depression
Of course there is sadness, sometimes such deep sadness that the person experiencing the loss might need the help of counselling and medication.  This is the stage where someone could be stuck for years.  But, some people can skip or move quickly through this step, perhaps because they were more prepared for or understanding of the loss. Click on this link to learn about the signs of depression:

Step Six:  Tears
This could also be called The Big Cry or The Big Scream.  Surely many people cry before they get to this stage, but this is the huge, usually unexpected, cry.  It could happen at the most inopportune time, or perhaps in a darkened movie theater.  You never know when it will happen, but it feels very cleansing, like a huge relief has been taken off of your shoulders.  People who have trouble crying, will scream instead, whether intentionally  or unintenionally.  I have heard of a therapist telling a patient to go to the beach and scream at the crashing waves, in order to get through this step.

Step Seven, (my favorite):  Growth or Acceptance
Yes, there can actually be something good come from something that at one time brought you grief.  For one thing, every time you grieve over something, you become more resilient, more able to spring back from future losses.  Think back to some of your losses in your past.  Did life ever become better after a move?  A divorce?  Was there a lesson learned?  Was there personal growth?  I hope so.

I'm still not sure what  Growth I will experience  from the loss of my dear friend, Teresa, but I know that she would want me to go forth and make the most of my life.  Having Teresa in my life made me a better person.  I feel very lucky to have been one of her close friends.

I wish you wellness.


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