Coping with Grief and Loss
The chance of experiencing loss in your lifetime is 100 percent. Everyone encounters significant loss at some point, and grief is the emotional reaction to that loss. Whether you face the death of a beloved family member or pet, see a marriage or job crumble, or watch your health or finances diminish, some level of grieving will occur. In fact, anything valuable has the capacity for loss and the corresponding grief attached.
Grief is both universal and unique in its nature. Two people experiencing the same loss might react very differently depending on their relationship to whom or what is being grieved. Some people engage in anticipatory grief, which occurs before an actual loss. This is commonly seen with a dying friend or family member, an upcoming move, or impending divorce. This type of grieving is a means of self-protection and preparation for the actual loss.
There are many physical and emotional symptoms of the grieving process. Many individuals face sleeplessness, weight loss or gain, or a weakened immune system. Chronic illnesses may become worse due to the stress of grieving. Emotional responses may range from sadness, guilt, fear, or anxiety to moments of relief, peace, or even happiness.
The Five Stages of Grief
While there is no normal or expected grief response, there are five common stages, observed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, through which many people walk. These stages include:
Common Myths about Grief
No two individuals will follow the same grief path or timetable. Some people adjust quickly to their new environment. Others will take several months or years, especially if their daily life is vastly different, or the loss was a shock or trauma. Grieving is an intensely personal experience, and no one should determine what is grief-worthy for another. There is no “normal” or standard protocol that fits everyone. Here are some other common misconceptions:
Ways to Cope with Loss
There are many useful ways to move from a place of grief to a life of healing and hope.
Accepting a “new normal” is the key to understanding grief. Despite the old adage, time will help, but it will not completely cure the pain of loss. Coming to a place of greater awareness and acceptance of this new identity is the final stop, or perhaps, just the beginning, on the road to life after loss.