Grief is the natural emotional state linked to loss. Grief can encompass a wide range of challenging and painful feelings—from deep sadness to anxiety to confusion to anger and depression. Healing from grief involves mourning the loss to reach an acceptance. Mourning is the gradual process of effectively saying goodbye to, and letting go of, that which we have lost. Grieving is a very individual experience. The way a woman grieves may be unlike the way any other person in her life experiences a loss. Similarly, grieving can be different depending on the age of a woman, level of significance between the loved one who passed and the woman, and how the death of the loved one was experienced or occurred. Just as we live our lives so differently, so are our deaths. There are some common characteristics of grief, although not every woman experiences all of them and many symptoms occur separately. A variety of symptoms can come about with great intensity and frequency while others can occur more mildly and infrequently. Symptom variability makes each woman unique as they experience grief. Grief is a process so many woman will encounter throughout their lifespan.
COMMON SYMPTOMS AND FEELINGS FOLLOWING
A LOVED ONE'S DEATH
One of the most well-known models of grief is known as the Five Stages of Grief, which posits that everyone experiencing grief will ultimately go through 5 different stages, in no specific order, while grieving. This is how our mind tries to cope with the emotional pain and psychological trauma of losing someone we love. However, women going through loss and grief will not necessarily experience all the stages or in the order listed and discussed below.
The model involves five stages that do not necessarily occur in any particular order:
Denial is the first of the five stages of grief. It helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. Denial and shock help us to make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief and allows for nature to help how much change and despair a body can handle. Healing considerations are entertained. Not to the surface yet, but you are becoming somewhat stronger.
Anger is a necessary stage as we attempt to heal. The willingness to feel anger, even though it may seem endless allows for internal emotions of hurt to process. Anger can eventually act as bridge to open a connection between emotions, specifically hurt and pain. It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing.We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. The anger is another indication of the intensity of your love for the loved one that has passed.
Before a loss and after a loss, we will do and say anything to spare us the loss and pain of a loved on passing. “Please God, I will do anything... ” We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…IF ONLY, IF ONLY, IF ONLY... Guilt can surface here as well, often bargaining’s companion. "If I could have done this..." We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We can remain in the past, trying to compromise our way out of the hurt. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. Because emotions are so unique to each one of us, we do not enter and leave each individual stage in a straight forward pattern.
After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a heavier level, more profoundly than we imagined. Depressive stages feel as though the stage will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. Being in a fog of intense sadness, loneliness and wonderings leads to compulsive negative thoughts. Withdrawing from life can even occur. The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you’re in is actually depressing. The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual. When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your loved one didn’t get better this time and is not coming back is understandably depressing. Grieving is a process of healing, and depression is its aftermath.
"I'am alright" or "I'am OK" is confused with the notion of acceptance. This is typically not the case. Most people never feel resolve about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that there is a new reality. We will never want to accept this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with the absence of our loved one. A new normal with which we must learn to experience and live with. We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing. Life has been been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize our lives, re-assign tasks, ask others or take them on ourselves. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we grow, we evolve, we help others. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.
When implementing grief and loss therapies our practice uses a Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT) approach focusing mainly to help a woman bereaving the death of their loved one, which involves giving them permission to grieve whilst also guiding and supporting them as they build a new normal within themselves. Most grieving women who present for help need to:
Many of the CBT strategies that are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression, such as increasing pleasant events and challenging unhelpful thoughts, can be modified for working with grieving women. Strategies which focus on increasing the sense of wellbeing and gaining self control control can help facilitate adjustment. CBT is an effective treatment modality when working with grieving women as it provides a guide to understand their experience, identify barriers that are standing in their path, and to develop strategies to increase their sense of control.