By Sheethal Behari, Clinical Psychologist at PsychMatters Centre
People expect one to grieve following the death of a loved one, however grief occurs in other circumstances as well.
Loss can be defined in so many ways. Sometimes an event occurs and is not recognised as a loss and when the grieving occurs people question it and try to block it out. There can be a feeling of loss when you move house, stop chatting to a long-time friend, get a new job, break up with a romantic partner, your children leave home, have a baby and many other happy and sad life events. An element of loss can be present in many events. The feelings of loss causes a grief reaction and can manifest in any one of the 5 stages mentioned above, with feelings moving back and forth between the stages.
Sometimes because we don’t acknowledge the loss we do not allow ourselves to experience the grief. We question it and undermine it. In addition it is sometimes not socially acceptable. People expect happiness when a baby is born, or when we get a new job. We are not allowed to feel a sense of loss and not allowed to grieve that loss. When it is socially accepted to experience a loss like in the breakup of a relationship or the death of a loved one, we are still expected to experience it in a predetermined way. Sometimes we are ok at a time when it’s expected that we’ll feel sad or sad when there no reason for sadness.
Most people associate the need to grieve with the death of a loved one and expect a socially acceptable natural progression of grieving. Grief is a reaction to a loss. Grief affects us in emotional, physical, cognitive, behavioural and social ways. It is multifaceted and seeps into all aspects of our lives. When faced with a loss and the subsequent grief most people present with stages of grief. These stages are not unidirectional or sequential but more like waves of grief that ebb and flow between one or more feelings. Unfortunately that is how loss and grief work.
There are some universal rules. You’ll feel angry and be in shock. You’ll cry sometimes and be ok at other times but when these times are, vary. They are different for different people. And how long the sense of loss and grief last are also individualised. Sometimes we tend to rush it. We don’t like the pain and try various methods to stop the pain. Or we think there is something that is wrong with us for still grieving when it is expected that we should be fine by now. There just seems to be too much pressure in how and when we should feel a sense of loss and grieve this loss. There are too many rules and expectations. So much so that sometimes it’s easier to pretend we’re ok, numb the pain, redirect the difficult feelings instead of working them out.
The expected stages of loss and grief:
Denial – This is usually an initial reaction where the individual doesn’t believe the loss has occurred.
Anger – Once a person progresses past denial they can become angry that the loss has occurred. This anger can be directed at the person who has been lost or has caused the loss.
Bargaining – This stage involves the person hoping to end the pain by actively bargaining with a higher power, the individual who has caused the loss or themselves.
Depression – This is the most expected and accepted phase of loss. Becoming sad at the loss of a person or object is a common stage of grief
Acceptance – At this stage individuals embrace the inevitable loss.
If any of these words resonate with you. If you’ve experienced an event that has elicited a feeling of loss that you cannot understand or were not allowed to grieve in a way that has promoted healing within you, it may be a good idea to consult a clinical psychologist. Should you be experiencing any kind of loss and struggling to cope, contact our psychologists at PsychMatters Centre on 011 4503576 to assist you in your healing.