Coping with death is vital to a person’s mental health. It is only natural to experience grief when a loved one dies. There are many ways to cope effectively:
- A-Seek out caring people. Relatives and friends can understand feelings of loss. Support groups with others who are experiencing similar losses may also be beneficial.
- B-Express feelings. The person should tell others how they are feeling; it will help them to work through the grieving process.
- C-Take care of your health. Maintaining regular contact with the family physician, eating well and getting plenty of rest is essential. Awareness of the danger of developing a dependence on medication or alcohol to deal with grief is also a must.
- D-Accept that life is for living. The individual must begin to live again in the present and not dwell on the past.
- E-Postpone major life changes. The individual needs to refrain from making any major changes, such as moving, remarrying, changing jobs or having another child. They need time to adjust to their loss.
- G-Be patient. It can take months or even years to absorb a major loss and accept a changed life.
- F-Seek outside help when necessary. If grief seems like it is too much to bear, the individual should seek professional assistance to help work through the grief. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek help.
Before moving further, it is important to ensure that you are aware of the different definitions of relevant terms.
This is a concentration of emotional energy towards a person, idea or thing.
This is the process that we go through when a person dies. The gradual weakening and separation of an emotional tie. Also called the grief process.
Bereavement (normal grief)
Grief is either uncomplicated “normal” grief or complicated. Grief is a normal reaction to loss of a loved one. However, some grieving individuals may display symptoms that are characteristic of a Major Depressive Episode eg. Sadness, insomnia, poor appetite, weight loss.
The bereaved person may think the depressed mood is “normal”, but others may seek professional help for the attendant symptoms, such as insomnia. The duration and expression of “normal” bereavement varies among different cultural groups. The diagnosis of major depressive disorder is not usually given unless symptoms are present two months after the loss.
Complicated bereavement takes many forms, such as absence of grieving, conflicted grief, pathological grief and chronic mourning. Other symptoms not present in “normal” grief may include guilt at actions not taken, thoughts of death (thinking they would be better off dead as well), morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, psychomotor retardation, functional impairment, hallucinations (seeing or hearing the dead person).
This occurs when we know in advance that a person is going to die. We start to prepare psychologically and begin the grieving process. For example, if you are visiting someone in a hospital or hospice daily, the death may be the last stage of grief. Anticipatory grief is unusual as it can result from an imagined death.
This follows an unexpected death, such as car accident, plane crash, and murder. The human mind needs time to grasp events, but without that time, serious complications can arise. The pattern of recovery can be uncertain, including withdrawal from relationships, fear of loss throughout their lives, fear of associations to the cause of death.
This occurs when the relationship with the deceased was ambivalent – the person may love and hate the deceased. At first, the bereaved person may not show a lot of pain, but later, there may be a great deal of sadness and guilt about the feelings they had for the person who died.
Chronic grief occurs when the survivor was totally dependent on the deceased person. The survivors are insecure and anxious and need the deceased person present to soothe them. They have never learned to soothe and support themselves. So, hanging on to their grief is the closest they can come to hanging on to the deceased.
Absent grief is hard to determine as there is a possibility that the bereaved will eventually realise the loss and start to grieve. But basically, this is self-explanatory; the person does not appear to show any grief at the loss.
Distorted grief is unusual. It is often associated with great guilt or anger. The grief can take unexpected forms, such as the development of symptoms that the deceased had before death. Other signs of distorted grief include over activity without a sense of loss, conspicuous changes in behaviour, hostility towards a specific person, self-destructive actions and so on.
This occurs when some of the feelings associated with grief are not expressed.
This term applies to all forms of complicated bereavement. A grief is said to be “resolved” when the bereaved can love again.
However, it may be that during our lives, the feelings of loss reduce in their depth until, eventually, the parts we have lost in ourselves in the grieving process are whole again. This could take a lifetime or a shorter time. We don’t know.
This is fairly common, as there are many reasons why grief can be delayed.
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