November 9

Loss, Grief and Mourning

Loss and Grief

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Loss, Grief and Grief
When we lose those or things we love…

Loss, death and life are opposite words, and yet there is no life without loss and death.
Unfortunately, all of us at some point will experience the loss of someone or something we love. There are many kinds of loss and each has its own kind of grief and mourning.

First of all, mourning is the natural reaction to loss. It is the emotional whirlwind one feels when something or someone one loves moves away, leaves. Too often we associate mourning with the death of a loved one. But any loss can create grief, such as:
– The loss of a relationship
– The loss of health
– The loss of a job
– The loss of financial stability
– A failure
– A miscarriage
– The death of a pet
– The serious illness of someone we love
– The loss of a friendship
– The loss of a sense of security after a trauma

The more significant the loss, the more intense the mourning. How one grieves depends on many factors such as personality, coping style, life experience, faith and the nature of the loss itself. 

There is no right or wrong way to grieve – but there are healthy ways to deal with pain. Mourning must be manifested and expressed, because it helps to mature the person, as well as to strengthen him. 
No one can rush this process, nor is there an ideal blueprint for the manifestation of mourning. Some people start to feel better within a few weeks or months. For others, mourning or grieving takes years… Whatever the type of mourning, we should be patient with ourselves and allow the process to unfold naturally.

Experiencing a death…
People who are grieving go through a grieving process with common reactions and feelings. This is the “grief cycle”, which involves the stages of acceptance, realization and adjustment. This process of mourning is unique in intensity and duration. The form, sequence, and duration of emotional reactions to loss vary considerably from person to person. Some common physical symptoms of bereavement are: tightness in the throat, feeling of suffocation, difficulty breathing, feeling of suffocation, emptiness in the stomach, feeling of physical weakness, tension, pains.

From various studies and cases, various psychologists have separated the stages of mourning and report that the typical emotional process for the majority of people is as follows:

The stages of mourning:
–     Denial:  e.g. “This can’t happen!”, “Something will go wrong”
Initially, the person may feel numbness, shock, and disbelief. A sudden change in everyday life occurs when someone dies. Even if death is expected, e.g. in the case of a long illness, nevertheless there is still disbelief that this person is gone forever. There is a sense of paralysis. People’s reactions vary greatly and while one person may feel a kind of indifference, introversion, and detachment, another may burst into tears and be unable to accept that their loved one is gone. Some forms of denial are direct and acute, while others are more subliminal, such as “accidentally” putting a plate of food in the place of the person who died at the table, or waiting for someone to walk in the door.

–     Anger : e.g. “Why should this happen? Why me, why now?’
The person experiences anger, which can also be directed at someone else, either at the person himself who died and left him alone, or at the doctor who failed to save his loved one’s life. In addition to anger, he also experiences guilt – because he is still alive, unresolved issues or reasons for which he regrets in his relations with the deceased, some disagreement with him or some secret that is weighing him down.

–     Melancholy/Sadness : e.g. “I’m too upset to do anything.” 
Then feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and the feeling that he will not be able to continue his life come to the surface. Many times still the person may feel that this sadness will never go away… 
Others experience anxiety. Some others reevaluate their lives as a result of the loss.

–  Acceptance : e.g. “I have accepted – got used to what happened, and I want to adapt to my new reality” 
As the person has passed through the phase of deep grief, they proceed to accept the loss and come to terms with the changes this event has brought about in their life. He begins to reorganize, rebuild, and draw energy from different connections with people. Losing a loved one can change a person’s entire social support framework. So he may need to recruit new skills to get on with his life.
Then the relationship with the person who has passed away changes form, as it acquires a symbolic character and those painful feelings no longer exist. 

Ways of dealing with
Millions of people process bereavement without some form of psychotherapy, but having psychological support during times of intense stress and pain can be an invaluable asset. Understanding friends and family is just as important at these times. There is no recipe for what one can do, since there is no standard response to loss. Each person’s grief is as special and personal as their life. The important thing is to express and process all those difficult thoughts and feelings related to the loss. It is very important that the person can sigh, cry and do what they have to do to understand this end. 
Some psychological studies show that these forms of emotions are a necessary physical discharge of the mechanisms of stress and sadness. These, when not relieved, manifest themselves in other ways such as inability to concentrate, poor memory, sleep problems, reduced appetite, and drug or alcohol abuse.

Psychologists have various specialized ways of dealing with grief. Sometimes they suggest that the client write a letter to the person who was lost, telling him all the things he couldn’t or never had the chance to do. It encourages the expression of all these negative emotions such as anger, sadness, guilt, and gives permission to grieve in any way one wants. He explains the stages, so that he understands that what he is going through is completely normal, and is present with him in his pain. He offers as much emotional support as he can to facilitate this difficult process. 

Later, when the client is ready and more empowered, he is encouraged to move on with his life, and is helped to adjust to his new routine and reality.
 
Death is one of the most difficult realities we have to face in our lives. Unfortunately, it is almost inevitable that at some point we will find ourselves in this difficult position of losing one of our own.
But we must not forget that difficult situations make us even stronger as characters. All difficult things have lessons that we can learn, as long as we are open to them.

Struggling with a loss? You don’t have to go through it alone. Counselling Kenya is a leading counselling center in Mombasa. Our therapists have years of experience helping people cope with mental health issues. To make an appointment, or speak with one of our counsellors, call 0741123944.

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