Grief is the acute pain that accompanies loss. Because it is a reflection of what we love, it can feel all-encompassing. Grief is not limited to the loss of people, but when it follows the loss of a loved one, it may be compounded by feelings of guilt and confusion, especially if the relationship was a difficult one.
THE GRIEVING PROCESS
Because grief obeys its own trajectory, there is no timetable for feelings of pain after loss; nor is it possible to avoid suffering altogether. In fact, attempts to suppress or deny grief are just as likely to prolong the process, while also demanding additional emotional effort.
Similarly, the misperception that “more” grief is better or that there is a proper way to grieve can make the process more difficult.
For some people, grief is a short-term phenomenon, also known as acute grief, although the pain may return unexpectedly at a later time. But other individuals may experience prolonged grief, also known as complicated grief, lasting months or years. Without help and support, such grief can lead to isolation and chronic loneliness.
DOES EVERYONE FOLLOW THE 5 STAGES OF GRIEF?
Many people expect to experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, in that order. However, it has been demonstrated that many, if not most, people will not progress through these stages. While some people do experience the stages, and eventually reach acceptance after a loss, grief is now understood to be highly individualized and unpredictable.
SUPPORTING A GRIEVER
Because grief is experienced in many ways, experts suggest that those who would support a friend or loved one in a time of grieving follow that person’s lead, and resist judging whether they seem to be insufficiently sad or to be dwelling in grief for too long. And it is generally unhelpful to encourage the pursuit of “closure.”
Offering practical help and an acknowledgement of a loss are both positive actions. Many mourners want those around them to listen, ask questions, and share memories, thereby confirming the depth and validity of the griever’s feelings and helping them heal.