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Bereavement and Grief

What is grief?

Grief is characterised by a number of intense emotions that occur naturally after a loss. The greater the sense of loss the more intense your symptoms will be. These symptoms typically include sadness but may also include shock, disbelief, anger, guilt and fear. 

 

As well as intense emotional distress, you may experience physical symptoms including fatigue, weight loss/gain, nausea, lower immunity and insomnia.

 

Grief is similar to a major depressive episode, however the distress is rational to the loss and will typically resolve in time without any clinical / therapeutic interventions. That is not to say that you should not follow your GPs advise on medications that may make managing the emotion easier.  

What to expect

You may have heard of the stages of grief model as it has often been portrayed in popular media. Developed in 1969 by Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, it identifies 5 common stages in grief: 

5 Stages of Grief

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

It can be difficult to accept what you have lost. You could feel numb and if you have lost someone you may continue to expect to see them.

The loss may feel incredibly unjust and you may look for someone or something to blame. Sometimes anger is used to cover up having to face the sadness that we are truly experiencing. 

You may consider anything you could possibly do to make the current situation not your lived reality. 

Grief mimics the symptoms of Clinical Depression. Initially you may experience acute upset, emptiness, yearning and deep loneliness. 

As we begin to accept the loss we continue to grief but can reinvest in our lives and have positive thoughts again about our future. Talking about the loss becomes easier. 

While putting them in the commonly understood order, I have not numbered them as in reality you may experience these stages in a different order. It is also not the case that you necessarily experience all of these stages.

 

Kübler-Ross herself stated that the model was never intended to put messy emotions into neatly defined categories but rather just seeks to provide a framework for understanding. 

I encourage people to consider grieving a process with no clear rules. It is about coming to terms with what you have lost and processing (feeling) the emotion. With time thoughts, images and words that remind you of your loss create less and less negative emotion and eventually you may reach a place where you can talk of the loss and even experience positive feeling (reminiscing fondly). To do this, we must think and talk about the loss and engage with things, people and places that help you do this.

 

While I do help people through this process you may wish to contact CRUSE if you feel you may benefit form grief counselling.  

CBT for grief