I will call this grief. Separation through death is not the only way we experience grief. Any event or incident that evokes disappointment, pain and hurt can result in grief.
Separation through moving away can grieve people as deeply as separation through death. It can often worsen because the lost object is still around, making it difficult for the grief victim to put a closure to the painful experience.
One loss nearly everyone knows is the loss of a relationship. This may involve friends, colleagues or lovers. Even in an illicit relationship that has come to an end, a loss is experienced. In fact, when we lose a person, we often lose the friends and acquaintances (including family members) associated with that person. What follows is often a sense of emptiness, and trying to fill the vacuum can be insurmountable.
Any loss that causes some form of upheaval in life evokes grief. But the intensity of grief varies, with minor upheavals causing transient feelings of disappointment and major upheavals causing pain which can continue for a long, long time. Severe grief can also lead to psychiatric illness, especially when the victim cannot cope with the experience or when the emotions seem overwhelming.
The grieving process
The first thing we need to realize is that grief is a normal response to a painful event. It is irrelevant whether the loss evolves around things, people, events, time, youth, self esteem or identity. What matters is the realization that a chain of reactions and responses follows every loss and this is called a grief reaction. There is nothing we can do about it. The more we try to resist or deny the reaction, the more we struggle with our recovery. The five stages of grief are:
Denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance or resolution.
It does not matter whether the loss was anticipated or not, the immediate response is shock. Just as the body goes into shock after a serious injury, the mind and spirit go into shock after an emotional blow. Following the shock there is a sense of disbelief and numbness. This is an experience of denial. It is natural for us to denial a reality that we are not ready to accept.
It is important for the grieving person in any circumstances not to continue in denial indefinitely. It becomes critical at some point to face reality. The key to breaking through the wall of denials is time and the opportunity to talk about the grief as well as the permission to cry.
Persons still suffering from denial or prolonged shocks are also capable of making rash or inappropriate decisions. It is an impulsive decision and usually worsens the situation.
The roller coaster of emotions that follows denial includes being angry. It seems so natural to be angry when you lose something and cannot find it back.
The problem with anger is that it can be destructive. It can run into bitter resentment and lead the grief victim into all kinds of self destruction behavior and physical hostility towards others or himself.
Anger is an integral part of normal grieving or loss and accepting that we can feel angry and expressing this emotion appropriately is so important if we are to overcome grief. Denying will not make it disappear. We need to learn that feeling angry is just like feeling sad, or glad or even bad. They pop in and out of our minds all the time.
Closely related to anger is the feeling of guilt. These feelings of guilt arise from something which we did or said but wished we had not. Feelings of guilt are the hallmark of the grief process not to be obsessed with them would inevitably slow down recovery as well as generate lots of anger on things that cannot be changed.
It is important to understand that while you are grieving you will inevitably feel sad, and everything seems pointless. Painful memories linger on your mind and make you sadder. But you need to come to realization that accepting the loss is the only way out and it is time to redirect your energies towards the future.
This is the next stage of the process. It can be seen as an attempt, albeit a desperate one, to be in control. To want things as they were, to push back the clock. Bargaining is not all bad for a while. It is protective in that we do not have to face reality when we are not ready. It gives us a sense of being in control temporarily.
Acceptance or resolution
This is the last stage of grief. All that has gone on before, propels the griever into the final stage of acceptance.
Acceptance is not a stage in which we stick our heads into the sand and act as if nothing has happened. If we refuse to accept things, we will get stuck in the grief process itself. It becomes toxic.
Acceptance requires great amount of courage to accept things that cannot be changed, to let go of the pain, to trust that healing will eventually come and to have a desire to rejoin life again.
How do we work through the journey of grief? We arrive at our destination which is acceptance….