If you’re suffering a bereavement, and working through the five stages of grief, it can be challenging to know how to approach the process healthfully. As a society we’re not taught in advance how to deal with the issue of grief. We don’t have an accurate sense of what it’s like to grieve until it happens to us, and then we have to manage it while we’re at our most vulnerable. It’s a massive challenge, even for the most mentally healthy people.
Why Do People Grieve?
People grieve for all kinds of reasons. The following list provides some common examples:
- The death of a person that they love
- The loss of the mind or cognitive capacity of a person that they love
- Marital affairs / loss of trust
- Divorce / loss of love
- The discovery that someone has stolen something from them
- Foreclosure on a home
- Loss of a job
- Moving to a new location
- Sexual difficulties
- Loss of identity
- Loss of health or a part of the body
The Five Stages of Grief
Psychologists split grief into five stages and in the following order:
At the denial stage, the person affected tries to avoid the knowledge of the event. It’s too hard to accept that reality could have changed so much and that things are so outside of the afflicted person’s control.
The next stage is anger. How could this terrible thing have happened? The person affected did nothing to deserve it. It’s wrong!
The pain of grief can be so intense that some people can begin negotiating with themselves and others. Those suffering the loss of a loved one, for instance, can promise God that they will be a good person if he brings their loved one back.
The depression stage is actually a sign of recovery. It’s where the reality hits.
Life, unfortunately, is full of horror. With grief comes the maturity to accept this horror and commit to personal wellbeing regardless.
What is Healthy Grief?
While grieving is unpleasant, it’s essential to recognize that the emotion itself is a sign of health. It shows that you’re connected to the world around you and that you have a healthy response to events, like loss and betrayal. It’s confirmation that you’re not an automaton, robotically moving through life: you’re a person experiencing the authentic emotional fullness of life in all its forms.
There’s a difference, however, between grieving healthily and not. People who grieve healthily tend to speak openly about how they feel. They approach others for help and support when they need it. And they do what they can to confront their uncomfortable feelings directly. Unhealthy responses include things like self-imposed isolation, ignoring feelings, or pretending that the grieving process has ended when, in fact, it hasn’t.
What are Examples of Healthy Ways to Grieve?
- Speak to your counsellor or somebody you trust about how you feel
- Remain connected to the world by seeing friends and enjoying nature
- Allow yourself to feel the emotion: don’t hide from it
- Take time to rest; bereavement is as much a physical process as it is mental
- Take time to understand the mystery of life: it can be strange and, in its own way, liberating
- Don’t say that you’ll be healed in a specific time frame: grief can persist, and that’s okay
If you or someone you care about is struggling with grief, consider seeing one of our licensed counsellors who can help you process a loss. Click HERE to schedule an appointment.