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Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One

Category: 

Grieving Process

Posted On: May 13, 2014

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Everyone grieves in his or her own specific way. There’s no right or wrong way to navigate through your feelings after suffering a loss. Similarly, there is no specific timetable for dealing with the loss of a loved one. Remember that it is important to actively deal with the pain of your loss, not by ignoring it or putting on a brave face for the sake of others in your family. Showing other people in your family how much the loss has affected you will help them deal with their feelings as well.

The Five Stages of Grieving and Loss

                In her 1969 book On Death and Dying, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the five stages of grief. In the first stage of denial, the grieving person refuses to accept reality to protect themselves from the reality of a terrible loss. During the next stage, anger, the grieving person begins to see the reality of the situation but looks to assign blame for what’s happening. Next is bargaining, where pleas may be made to a higher power to just stop this from happening in exchange for something else, e.g. “I’ll become a better person.” Once the grieving person realizes they are powerless to control the situation, depression may set in. Finally, during the last stage of acceptance, the person who suffered the loss becomes at peace with what happened.

It’s important to remember that while the Kübler-Rossmodel is now considered a common pattern, everybody experiences the five stages of grieving in their own way. Some people may never truly accept the loss of a loved one, or it may take them a long time to do so.

Dealing with Reminders of Grief

                Grief doesn’t have an expiration date, either. The loss of someone close to you will affect you for a long time, even as you become more accepting of their death. A reminder of your loved one could come on special days of the year, such as a birthday, anniversary, or other holiday. It could even come as a surprise, such as a reference to a movie that they loved of a whiff of their favorite food. You could suddenly find yourself overcome with emotion, perhaps for days.

                It’s important not to look at an episode like this as a “setback.” It shows that your loved one is still close in your heart and that you still cherish the memories of being together. But it’s important to find ways to cope with reminders so that they don’t become overwhelming. On special days like anniversaries, accept that you’ll likely have a reaction, and use it as an opportunity for healing. Plan a distraction and make time to spend with friends so that the whole day isn’t weighing down on you. When you’re taken off-guard by other, sudden reactions, write about them in a journal, or maybe as a letter to your loved one.

Once again, there is no time limit to the grieving process. But if you find that your grief is getting in the way of normal everyday activities, speak to a therapist or grief counselor.