Supporting others in Grief
“Life comes with a gush of uncertain events, which are not under our control, but how we react to it is what makes a significant difference. So let us learn to navigate the difficulties“
Grief can be a powerful emotion, but what exactly does this sentiment ‘GRIEF’ or ‘Grieving’ mean?
C. S. Lewis described his own grief like this, “one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, it’s hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
What is grieving?
Grieving is hard. It is a complex set of emotions. Grief is a sentiment that incites. This emotion can be a body’s reflex mechanism in conditions of deep turmoil due to any type of loss. Following which people are going through a range of overflowing emotions that involves sadness, anger, regret, and the most difficult condition of trauma. The reactions generated are a part of the grieving process which can be very individual because the level of vulnerability can be very subjective.
The grieving process is a way of venting, it’s a way of letting out those myriads of feelings built up in a grieving person. So, in a way, it’s a practice of crying those emotions out loud in the hope of filling that void inside them. The feeling of grief helps a mourning person in sharing their sorrow vis-a-vis opening up with their family members.
The grieving process develops through its stages of grief which are:
- The phase of denial: In situations of grief, an individual would generally keep a safe distance from accepting the truth. This is the zone of denial, the phase of having difficulty in absorbing reality. The reason behind developing this shield of protection is because it can be hard for the grieving person to accept the loss. This phase comes as a primary stage of trying to process what happened, wherein there is a rush of emotions. This stage might lead to a breakdown also because it becomes difficult for the affected person to start thinking of a life without the lost one.
- Emoting anger: As time moves ahead and the realization of the loss sets in, the aggrieved person experiences a level of discomfort. Along with this, there are pent-up emotions that need an outlet, which comes out in the form of anger then. The cause of this anger might be because you start seeing life as unfair and unjustified. This stage is also seen as an act of blaming, an act of questioning.
- Bargaining: Coping with a loss is not easy and it often comes with a set of what-ifs, if only, and buts. A mourning person starts imagining situations that could have prevented the death of their loved one or any loss.. This is common.
- depression: This emotion is let out because of the feeling of emptiness within the aggrieved person. They might also feel like disconnecting from the rest of the world and thinking of keeping low. The reason behind this isolation can be because the affected person is trying to slowly realize the outcome of this mishappening. This is the stage where the anger has subsided and the person is not denying or bargaining. Instead of feeling lost and aloof, in this stage, the person does not feel the need to reach out or open up about their inner feelings but stays put.
- Acceptance- Making peace with what happened: Over time, the acceptance of reality starts sinking in. The person is no longer trying to dissuade from what happened. Although suffrage might not have come to an end the state of denial has subdued. This final stage comes with the mourning person trying to readjust with the melancholic situation. This stage is seen as a healing process, wherein the person realizes that life has to go on, so they come out of their shell. Following which they try attaining normalcy by interacting with their friends and family again. The stage of acceptance helps the person in realizing that It’s hard to turn the page when you know someone won’t be in the next chapter, but the story must go on.”
*These stages are not linear or consecutive. Someone can experience anger one day and the next bargaining. Each person’s journey in these stages is different.
How to support a loved one experiencing grief:
Throughout this time an aggrieved person experiences a range of difficult emotions. This is where the help of loved ones and health professionals who offer support comes into being. This support is extended in various forms beginning with empathy and compassion. These emotions can be very impactful while helping an aggrieved person in coping with loss.
- Don’t push it and let the bereaved deal with the trauma in their own time.
- Making them feel that they have got your back.
- Never judge their reactions and behavior all through their grieving process.
- Let them pour their heart out, so listen more and suggest less.
- Try to help them normalize their lives, being around them.