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Coping with grief and bereavement

Information about managing the stages of grief and bereavement after losing a loved one.

Understanding loss and adaption

There is no universally accepted manual that you can pull off the shelf which will walk you through how to cope with the death of someone you care about. Each person will have their very own personal reaction to grief and different ways of managing it, but it is important that you realise that such a highly significant life event involves stages of acceptance and adaption.

While everybody’s reaction will differ, Dr Mardi Horowitz’ mode for the stages of loss and adaption is accepted as being one that many people will follow when dealing with bereavement.

In the first stage, you may experience an Outcry. This will typically be manifested in crying, shouting, or even fainting. Others may go to the opposite extreme and try to push away the natural grieving process, but these people will also often reach a point where the weight of grief and loss results in an explosion of emotion.

In the next stage of coping with grief, people often oscillate between two conflicting emotions, denial and intrusion. In denial, the person may carry on with things in a normal manner as an attempt to cope with grief. While on the other hand, the death may feel like an overpowering intrusion into your daily life. The feeling of intrusion will often lead to further explosions of emotion as in the outcry stage.

In the third stage of the grieving process, the cycle between denial and intrusion dissipates and the person who has suffered the loss will begin to think about how to move forward with life. This stage will often be characterised by significant practical decision making, such as moving house, starting a new hobby, thinking about dating again, or just looking for new friends.

As more time passes, the grieving process will slowly ebb away. The stages of grieving move towards Completion and often the only lasting tinges of sadness and grief occur when anniversaries, birthdays, or special holidays come around. While it may seem unlikely at the outset, over time, almost all those who suffer a bereavement come to an acceptance of the death, and hopefully instead feel only happiness at the lasting fond memories of the person who has passed.

The five stages of grief

Perhaps a more commonly know mode of managing the grieving process is Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ 5 stages of grief. Here we find strong key words that everybody can relate to.

1. Denial

In this most automatic stage of the grieving process, the bereaved simply refuses to comprehend what has happened.

2. Anger

Denial is often replaced with anger at the realisation that the loved one has truly gone. This anger is often directed at both yourself and the person who has died.

3. Bargaining

In this stage, the bereaved person will offer up hypothetical thoughts about how things could have been different and that the death had not happened. This process helps to manage the frustration and hopelessness that comes from losing a loved one.

4. Depression

Unfortunately, many of those who suffer the loss of a loved one will fall into a state of depression. Whilst an entirely natural part of the grieving process, medical advice may be necessary if the depression becomes too deeply ingrained.

5. Acceptance

Once all of the above emotions have been worked through, almost everybody does learn to accept the new reality of life without their loved one. And it is essential to remember that it is by allowing the grieving process to play itself out that acceptance is reached. People who try to accept what has happened too quickly may find themselves being overcome with a sense of loss later on if they do not allow the stages of grieving to unfold naturally at the time that the loved one passes away.

Symptoms of grief

When learning how to deal with death, it is important that you appreciate just how much of a life-shattering experience it is that you are going through. A big part of your life has been left empty by a person who meant so much to you. It is very normal to not feel yourself during this period.

Each person will go through this experience in their own way, but the following are all symptoms of grief which are perfectly normal and experiencing any of them should not cause you any extra and undue concern:

  • Depressed mood
  • Yearning
  • Loneliness
  • Searching for the deceased
  • Sense of the deceased being present
  • Sense of continuous communication with the deceased
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Crying spells
  • Guilt
  • Lack of energy or Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Sadness
  • Trouble sleeping/Insomnia

Of course, if any of these symptoms seem to be going on for an exceptionally long time, you may want to get in touch with a professional who will be able to offer you advice on how to leave the grieving process behind.

Grief management tips

As already mentioned, the stages of grieving are different for everybody and this applies to how you finally manage to manage this grief, come to terms with the loss, and begin to move forward with your own life.

Talking to friends or possibly even a stranger about the process you are going through can be a good way of gaining some new perspective on this traumatic time. Writing a diary or a journal is also something that others tend to find helpful.

How long does grief last? Unfortunately, there is no set time period for this process. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is different for everybody, but it almost always improves after a period of weeks rather than months.

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