I will never forget the moment your heart stopped and mine kept beating!
Everyone has experienced or will at some point experience the loss of a near and dear one. Bereavement is a process that follows this loss. A person may experience emotions of sadness, yearning, numbness and even anger. During this period a person tries to understand the meaning of the finality and nature of death. A person tries to process or make sense of this loss.
Stages in the normal process of grief:
This initial stage is characterised by a feeling of numbness and a sense of denial, disbelief or unreality. There may be frequent crying spells and a feeling of emptiness. Sometimes a bereaved person may experience the presence of the deceased in the form of hearing their voice, or feeling their touch or seeing their face. This happens as the person keeps yearning and pining.
Preoccupation with the deceased:
in this stage, there may be mixed feelings of anger along with sadness. Bereaved is preoccupied with the thoughts of death and their own perceived failure to prevent it, leading to guilt. They may experience aimlessness, low motivation, mental fatigue, vivid dreams and sometimes social withdrawal.A bereaved person may continually think about the illness of the deceased. They may have "searching" behaviour due to the intense stress that the separation has brought about. This is because initially, the person may show disbelief of their own loss. They find it difficult to accept the reality.
The grief is resolved when the person can think about the past with fondness and starts regaining interest in activities. The person returns to work and resumes old social roles. Forming new relationships and acquiring new roles now begins.
Sometimes the feelings of grief are rekindled on certain special occasions like birthdays or wedding anniversaries. These tend to become mild and brief over time.
When to be concerned?
Though bereavement is a normal phenomenon, it becomes of concern when the period of grief gets prolonged (typically grief may last for 6 months to 1 year) or if the person shows symptoms of Clinical Depression.This may depend on various factors like the personality and age of the bereaved, nature of the relationship, circumstances of death, social support etc. The bereaved individual is more susceptible to developing depression, sometimes attempting suicide, as also ignoring physical health.
How can one help?
Compassionate and empathetic support from family and friends is very important. Counselling by a mental health professional may help in some cases. In cases where the bereavement seems prolonged or complicated, assessment is very important.
If the assessment indicates a psychiatric disorder, it has to be also treated along with the ongoing counselling. Monitoring of suicide risk also becomes very important.
Telling a bereaved person how to grieve, that they should "forget about the past" or "time heals all" is perceived as unhelpful and should be avoided. Instead, a more compassionate and empathetic approach will assist them on this journey of dealing with the loss.
A person may never stop grieving but becomes better at accepting the loss, as life moves on. So the person may grieve but remember the lost one with fondness. They may continue to love the lost one but are able to love anew.
"Grief is like an ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim! swim! Sometimes the water is calm, sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim!" - Vicki Harrison