Coping With The Loss Of Your Loved One

Understanding the grieving process

Understanding the grieving process

Losing a loved one can be an extremely traumatic and painful experience. When you lose a dear one to cancer, it is only natural to feel a deep sense of grief and irreversible loss. Grieving may often be a lengthy process and involves dealing with a range of emotions, behaviours, actions, trauma, and overwhelming sadness during this immensely difficult time. 

The process of dealing with grief and loss may vary from individual to individual and so will the coping mechanisms. Hence, the process and time duration of adapting to life post the loss of a loved one will be different for everyone.

Common Reactions to Loss

The reactions which one feels to loss are called grief reactions. They may include feelings like shock, sadness, denial, anger, guilt, depression, or loneliness – to name a few. Or they may exhibit themselves through physical sensations like headaches, nausea, tension of the muscles, physical numbness, lack of sleep, or fatigue. They may also manifest themselves through thoughts of disbelief, confusion, preoccupation, or distraction. 

Different people feel either some or all these grief reactions through the process of coping with loss. In several cases mourning – which is a ritual of dealing with grief and loss – affords some solace during the grieving process. Across cultures it may involve practices like preparation for a cremation or burial, memorials, and visits by family and friends.

Stages of grief

It is normal to go through many different emotional stages while grieving. For caregivers of patients with advanced cancer, the grieving process often starts before the loss of your loved one, because of anticipatory grief. 

Evidence suggests that there are generally 5 stages that are experienced by adults going through the grieving process:

Denial and isolation

Denial is usually the very first stage of grief; it can be tremendously difficult to accept that your loved one is no more. It may occur immediately after the loss or even before, if the death of your loved one is expected. Many caregivers and family members report feeling total shock, numbness, devastation and fear at this time. You may constantly be reminded of your loved one, which can trigger feelings of distress and anxiety. You may feel disconnected from the world, and may have an impulse to avoid talking to others about the loss and your emotions.

Anger

In some time, the initial feelings of fear and sadness may give way to frustration and anger. You may feel anxious and uncertain; the loss you have suffered may feel the most intense and painful at this time. It is normal to feel lonely and wonder why this terrible thing has happened to you. The anger may also manifest itself in other ways – you may feel distracted and have trouble focusing on the most basic of tasks.

Bargaining

It is natural to struggle to find meaning for the loss of your loved one. Still in disbelief, you may seek out the company of others who have been through the same difficult journey. You may find some comfort in religion or spirituality, or by leaning on your family members for love and support.

Depression Icon Set - Discouraged
Depression

It can be difficult to spot signs of depression, both for the person experiencing it and the people around them. Depression is usually characterized by feelings of overwhelming sadness, helplessness and distress. You may find yourself withdrawing from those around you, and even becoming hostile. Remember that there is no shame in seeking help at this difficult time.

Acceptance

This is usually the last stage of the grieving process, and occurs when people find ways to come to terms with the loss. It is a very slow process and involves adjusting to daily life without your loved one. Reaching this stage does not necessarily mean all the pain is gone. In addition to losing someone you cared about so deeply, you have also lost the future you expected to have with this person. For example, it is normal for a person who has lost their parent to be reminded of them at important events many years after their passing. This can bring back strong emotions, and require mourning yet another part of the loss.

How long does the grieving process last?

The period of bereavement or the time taken to cope with the process of grief and mourning for a loved one is unique to individuals and sometimes may be a very private process. Since we all grieve differently and the intensity may be different, the duration of the process varies vastly for different people.

 It is critical that you allow yourself the time needed to understand, explore, accept, and cope with your grief. It may feel like a roller coaster of ups and downs; however, it is important to focus your emotional energy on healing and looking toward the future.

Coping with Grief

Just like our grief reactions vary, so do the coping mechanisms. Some people find that the intensity of the grief lessens over time. Acknowledge your feelings of grief and understand that it is healthy to allow yourself to go through the healing process. Find healthy and creative outlets for your emotions and allow your body and mind to adapt slowly to the new reality. Try tried and tested methods like meditation, yoga, exercise, spirituality, writing, art, or music to help you cope. 

Try not to judge yourself or anyone around you for these emotions or perceive them as a sign of weakness. Be patient with yourself and anyone else who is dealing with the grieving process. Cope in the way which feels right for you and try not to criticize someone who adopts a different process or takes more time. 

Talking about your loss and feelings can be one of the most therapeutic ways to deal with grief. Support from family and friends will help speed up the healing process. Letting them know what you are feeling or thinking and trying to understand their emotions may help lessen the collective sense of sadness and loss. However, sometimes it may also be beneficial to seek professional help and grief therapy through this phase.

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