by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Grief is one of the strongest emotions that we will experience. We experience grief when we have to “say good-bye’ to anything from a loved one, whether it’s another person or a beloved pet, to a job. People that loose a body part, for example having a leg amputated, or the use of body parts like in paralysis will also grieve their loss. Grieving is a process that can take weeks to years depending on the loss experienced and the person experiencing the loss, and like it or not sooner or later you will grieve. Grief is a process that simply will not be denied. I’ve watched people try to move on as if nothing happened, but sooner or later they all succumb to the grieving process. many people try to avoid the grieving process because of the other unfamiliar emotions like fear, helplessness, and isolation that frequently accompany grief making them feel more vulnerable.
The grieving process frequently referred to as the five stages of grief was introduced by Dr E. Kubler Ross in her 1969 book “Death and Dying“. They are now universally accepted and are part of the curriculum in most medical and nursing schools. Though there are five stages to the grieving process it is not an orderly process. It’s true that eventually everyone goes through the process of grieving no two people go through the stages in the same order and some don’t experience all the stages. Each person works through the stages diifferently, some have more difficulty with one stage while another has more difficulty with another stage.
The five stages of grieving are;
1. denial and Isolation, this is usually the first reaction to loss. We tend to rationalize the overwhelming emotions that we are experiencing, this is a normal reaction. It’s a built in defense mechanism that we use to protect ourselves from the immediate shock. In this stage we tend to see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear.
2. Anger, This intense emotion erupts from our vulnerability. This anger can be aimed at anything or anyone including our deceased or dying loved one. Then because we know the subject of our anger is not to blame guiult creeps in making us more angry.
3. Bargaining, This is where we try to take back control over our feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. “I’ll do this if“. It is another, though weaker, defense mechanism to protect us fro the reality.
4. Depression, There are two types of depression that are seen in grieving. First is the reaction to the loss, sadness and regret. The second is more quiet and private, this is when we spend more time alone adjusting to “life after”.
5. Acceptance, Unfortunately not all will reach this stage. This tends to be a period of quiet reflection and can be confused with depression. This is a time when we are able to remember our loved one with a smile instead of feeling overwhelmed with the pain and loss.
Everyone grieves at their own pace. There will be times when you feel OK and then suddenly your overcome with pain and loss. Over time the episodes of overwhelming pain becomes less frequent as you move through the grieving process. Some find that the overwhelming pain lessens in intensity in a few weeks or months while others have difficulty moving forward. For some everyday events are painful reminders of their loss.
Unfortunately grieving isn’t something that someone else can do for us. The best way to get through the weeks and months after a loss is to allow the grieving process to run it’s course. To resist saying good-bye will only prolong the natural healing process.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.