Grief And Coping With Loss

A part of living life is the experience of loss, be that the loss of a pet, grief at the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, or just grieving the changes in life like children flying the nest. Grief is messy, difficult, and stressful to us, and those around us.

It’s hard to know how we will react and how we will get through it like we are in unknown territory without a map.

In 1969 psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross came up with a theory of there being 5 stages that a person goes through in the grieving process,. This process often referred to as the grief curve has 5 distinct stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Everyone grieves differently though, there is no typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives are and should be treated as such and interestingly Kübler-Ross said later just before her own death in 2004 that her grief curve model was never meant to tuck messy emotions into neat packages but as a guide into the emotions a grieving person may experience.

Each stage below can be visited at different points in the grieving process and doesn’t follow a structured and smooth path as our emotions fluctuate from time to time. There is no time frame either for grief and it is important to remember you will have good days and bad days or changes in your emotions from moment to moment.

All of these things are perfectly normal and you should treat yourself with patience and compassion and ask others around you to do the same as you allow the process to unfold. Let yourself feel your emotions without judgement.

Denial, Shock and disbelief

Often loss can be sudden but even if it is expected the first emotion we often feel is denial which initially helps to minimise the overwhelming pain we first feel. This is when it is hard for our mind to process the reality of loss and we try to survive the physical effects of the pain.

When our reality has shifted it takes time to adjust to this new reality. We might forget that we can’t call our loved one, we may imagine we can see that person in the street or expect them to knock on the door.

At this stage of grief denial helps our minds to slow down the processing of all of the painful imagery about the past and the future of this new change. There is a lot of information to explore and a lot of painful imagery to process and denial helps to prevent us feeling completely overwhelmed by our emotions.

Anger or hostility

Anger often follows denial as it is the first part of the emotional process as we come to the realisation that the loss of something/ someone we loved has happened.

As we try to adjust to our new reality we can often start to experience feelings of anger, this anger may come from the unfairness of our loss, feelings of insecurity in ourselves and how life is now going to be different, anger that others aren’t grieving too or anger to the reason why this loss has happened.

This is a natural response and is also part of our body and mind processing the loss. Often anger feelings can make us feel isolated and not understood, with a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness attached.

Bargaining

Sometimes as a further means of coping with our loss we are desperate to do almost anything to make reality change to help to minimise our own suffering. When coping with loss, it isn’t unusual to feel so desperate that you are willing to do almost anything to alleviate or minimise the pain, life which gives us a perceived sense of control over something gt hat feels so out of control.

We can bargain with our God, promise to be better if that person or pet lives, vow to never get angry again or drink or whatever it is that we feel might be enough ‘payment’ to get the loved one back. We often feel so helpless that we direct our requests to a higher power or something bigger than we are to help influence the outcome.

Bargaining in some way helps us feel we could gain control over our loss by focussing on the things we can be in control of like our own personal faults or regrets.

It is common to remember times when we have done or said something we did not mean or regret now and bargaining is a way of wishing we could go back and behave differently.

Depression and feeling overwhelmed

As we process grief and time passes our imaginations calm down and we start to move away from the past and become more aware of the reality of our lives now. We have gone through denial and bargaining has got us nowhere and we are left with the realisation that this change is here to stay.

The loss of our loved one is now ever present and we may retreat into ourselves and become very isolated. Other people may seem to have moved on and life is continuing but you are left with this huge void.

Acceptance

Acceptance isn’t about no longer feeling the pain of loss, it is when we no longer fight the reality of our situation and we are not struggling to make something different. There is still often at times sadness and regret but the emotional coping tactics of denial, bargaining and anger are less likely to be present.

Help with grief

Grief can cause lots of physical symptoms and affect our lives in a number of ways.

  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Physical problems like pain, tension headaches, problems with our immune system
  • Anxiety
  • Stress

Hypnotherapy can help to overcome the emotional factors that are causing these issues and can help to guide and navigate you through the grieving process.

Grief doesn’t go away as such, it starts as an all consuming feeling and you learn to grow around the loss and the emotions, and live alongside it. It often seems at the start of the grieving process impossible to imagine being happy again but with some support we can often learn ways to move forward.

Sometimes we can become ‘stuck’ at one of these stages and cannot seem to break out of the emotional response or thoughts we are having. If you find that you are not coping very well and need some help and guidance as you grieve then I can offer you help and support.