Loss and Grief

Grief is a complex and painful experience that can arise after the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, or even a way of life. It is a natural human response to loss, but it can take many different forms and affect people in different ways. In this article, we will explore the different types of grief and the best ways to cope with them.

Types of Grief

Normal grief is the natural process of grieving after a loss, and it can involve a range of emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, and regret. Complicated grief occurs when the grieving process becomes prolonged and more intense, making it difficult for the person to move forward. Anticipatory Grief occurs when someone knows that a loss is imminent, such as when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

A lesser-discussed form of grief, disenfranchised grief refers to the experience of grief that is not acknowledged or validated by society. This can happen when a person experiences a loss that is not considered socially acceptable, such as the loss of a pet or a non-traditional family member. Disenfranchised grief can also occur when a person is unable to openly express their grief due to cultural or societal norms. The stigma associated with abortion can significantly aggravate the psychological well-being of women post-abortion, which is compounded by self-judgement, isolation and shame.

Ambiguous Loss

Ambiguous loss refers to the experience of grief that is associated with a loss that is unclear,  unresolved or lacks closure.  Examples of ambiguous loss include:

  1. The disappearance of a loved one: When a person goes missing and their whereabouts are unknown, it can be difficult for their family and friends to grieve or move on. The lack of closure can create a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Chronic illness or mental health issues: When a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic illness or struggles with mental health issues, the loss is ongoing and may be difficult to come to terms with. The person may still be physically present, but their behaviour and personality may be altered, creating a sense of ambiguity and loss.
  • Divorce or separation: When a marriage or long-term relationship ends, there may be a sense of ambiguity and loss, particularly if there are unresolved feelings or issues.  This can be particularly challenging because it often involves a loss of identity and can result in social and financial challenges. In some instances, the loss of access or gaining only limited access to children through litigation and high-conflict cases can contribute to a parent’s sense of ambiguous loss, particularly when false accusations ensue. In the case of being falsely accused to facilitate the agenda of a hostile co-parent within the framework of a litigious system, the person may feel like they have lost their sense of self, their reputation, and their relationships with others. There may be no clear resolution to the situation, leaving the person in a state of uncertainty and confusion.
  • Loss of a job or career: Losing a job or a career can create a sense of loss and uncertainty about the future. The person may feel a sense of identity loss or struggle to find a new sense of purpose.
  • Loss of a limb or physical ability: When a person experiences a physical injury or illness that affects their mobility or ability to perform daily tasks, it can create a sense of loss and ambiguity.

Models of Grief

There are several models of grief that have been developed over the years to help people understand and cope with the experience of loss.

One of the most well-known models, The Kubler-Ross model, also known as the five stages of grief, is a theory proposed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. The model describes the different emotional stages that people go through when they experience significant loss.

The five stages of grief are:

Denial: This is the first stage of grief, where the individual may feel shock, disbelief, or numbness. They may refuse to accept the reality of the situation and may feel like they are in a dream or a nightmare.

Anger: The second stage of grief is characterized by feelings of frustration, anger, and bitterness. The individual may feel angry at themselves, others, or the situation itself. They may express their anger through blame, resentment, or even physical aggression.

Bargaining: The third stage of grief involves bargaining or attempting to negotiate with a higher power or fate. The individual may try to make deals or promises to try to change the situation or make it easier to bear. For example, they may pray, make promises, or attempt to rationalize the situation.

Depression: The fourth stage of grief is often characterized by a feeling of sadness, loneliness, and despair. The individual may feel overwhelmed by the loss and may struggle to find meaning or purpose in life. They may experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, or loss of appetite.

Acceptance: The final stage of grief is acceptance. This does not mean that the individual is happy or that they have fully recovered from their loss, but rather that they have come to terms with it and are able to move forward with their lives. They may still experience sadness and pain, but they are able to cope with these feelings in a healthy way.

It is important to note that not everyone experiences these stages of grief in the same order, and some may skip or repeat certain stages. Additionally, some individuals may not experience all of the stages or may experience additional stages that are not included in the Kubler-Ross model. The model is simply a tool to help individuals understand and cope with the grieving process.

Another model is the dual process model, which emphasizes the importance of balancing grief with restoration-oriented activities, such as self-care, social support, and new experiences.

When grief is linked to betrayal, (for example, infidelity in a romantic relationship, betrayal by a friend or in the workplace) confusion, worthlessness and powerlessness are added states of being to work through.

Manifestations of Grief

Grief can manifest in a variety of ways, including physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and changes in appetite or weight. It can also affect a person’s emotional and cognitive functioning, resulting in feelings of sadness, guilt, anxiety, and confusion.

Treatment for Grief

The best treatment for grief depends on the individual and their specific needs. Some common treatments include therapy, medication, and support groups. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be particularly effective in helping people identify and challenge negative thoughts and behaviors associated with grief.  Advice for Those Suffering from Grief

 If you are suffering from grief, there are several things you can do to take care of yourself:

• Allow yourself to grieve: Grief is a natural and necessary process, and it’s important to give yourself permission to feel your emotions.

• Seek support: Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist for support and guidance.

• Take care of your physical health: Eat well, get plenty of rest, and exercise regularly to support your emotional well-being.

• Be patient: Grief takes time, and it’s important to be patient with yourself and the process.

Supporting Someone with Grief

If you know someone who is experiencing grief, there are several things you can do to offer support. These include:

• Listening without judgment or trying to fix the problem

• Offering practical help, such as running errands or cooking meals

• Encouraging the person to seek professional help if needed

• Acknowledging and validating their feelings

• Continuing to offer support even after the initial shock has worn off

In conclusion, grief is a complex and individual experience that can take many different forms. It is important to recognize the different types of grief, as well as the models and treatments that can help people cope. By offering support and understanding, we can help those who are experiencing grief to navigate this challenging time and move toward healing and recovery.

Many cultures around the world have unique rituals and traditions to express and cope with grief. One such tradition involves the use of ash, sticks, sand, and money to represent the different aspects of grief.

Ash is often used to symbolize mourning and the ashes of the deceased. Sticks are used to represent the pain and the burden of grief, as well as the support and strength needed to bear it. Sand is often used to represent the passage of time and the impermanence of life. Money can also be used to represent the cost of grief, both in emotional and practical terms.

One way to incorporate these elements into a household is to create a personal altar or sacred space dedicated to the memory of the deceased. This can be a small table or shelf decorated with items that hold significance to the person who has passed away, such as photographs, candles, flowers, and personal objects.

Each day, or as needed, family members can take a moment to sit at the altar and reflect on the memories and emotions associated with the deceased. They can light a candle, offer a prayer or intention, and place a stick or coin on the altar to represent their grief and the progress of their healing journey.

This practice can help individuals and families to acknowledge and express their grief, while also providing a space for reflection, comfort, and connection to their loved one who has passed away.