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Coping With Grief - Understanding the Process
By Ben Anton

Grief is a common, expected, and necessary reaction to loss of any kind. Each person will experience grief in a different way and, depending on how well they cope with those emotions, they may have positive or negative long-term effects from their bereavement.

What is Grief?

The term grief comes from the Old French word greve which means a heavy burden. Normal characteristics of grief include depression, apathy, lethargy, and sorrow. What is so difficult about grief after the loss of a loved one is that it can renew and manifest again when special occasions or key dates come around each year. Though physical absence is the most obvious reason to grieve, many have a more difficult time getting over the constant reminder that they will never share a special moment or memory with the loved one again.

Responding To Grief

The response to the loss of a loved one varies depending on how the person passed way, the relationship between the griever and the deceased, and individual personalities. When a person dies unexpectedly, the grieving process may last longer than the grief associated with an anticipated death. Feelings of guilt and regret are often heightened in situations where a person dies who one has not spoken to in a long time or where fights were going on. People prone to depression may find the grieving process more difficult than someone with a more positive personality.

Stages of Grief

In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed five stages of grief based on her work with terminally-ill patients. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, acceptance. These stages serve as a good blueprint for what types of emotions people may experience after the death of a loved one.

Grief vs. Depression

Symptoms of depression may accompany grief. However, major depression is a psychological disorder that requires long-term treatment and care. Grief is a healthy human response; it should not be treated with antidepressants or medication. Grief can evolve into depression under certain conditions. Any one suspecting this to be occurring should seek the professional opinion of a psychiatrist or counselor.

Coping With Grief

Surround yourself with supportive, loving people is the best way to cope with the loss of a loved one. Dealing with grief alone is a dangerous and unhealthy idea. Find a discussion group or seek out a counselor if you need to talk with professionals and others that have gone through similar experiences. Find a friend to share time with, even if its just watching a movie at home or taking a walk. There is no embarrassment in sharing your time with people that are willing to offer you the support you need, regardless of what form that support takes.

Some find that a creative outlet, such as painting or keeping a memorial journal, is a good way to bring their minds out from under the burden of grief. Families often find that creating an online memorial or a memorial scrapbook helps give them a sense of peace as well as a place to always go back to and remember their loved one. Don't be ashamed of whatever form your grief manifests itself in so long as it is not self-destructive or detrimental to your long-term health.

Grief and Trauma

It is important to be aware of the how trauma may have an affect on the grieving process. Trauma is a disabling reaction to the unexpected death of a loved one that may block or hinder the grieving process and can lead to more damaging psychological problems. If you think you might be experiencing trauma, you should seek professional help.

By recognizing your grief and making strides to work through it in a safe and healthy way, your ability to cope with your emotions and move forward will be easier.


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