What does grief really mean?
Grief is a natural reaction to loss. It’s our body’s way of healing the wounds left by the loss of something precious. Since concepts like grief and loss are untidy, chaotic, and unpredictable (which is completely alright!), every person's grief is extremely unique and subjective.
Grief does not go away on its own over time. Renowned psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross suggests that there are five stages of grief - denial, bargain, anger, depression, and acceptance. However, further research has demonstrated how people do not go through these stages in a linear manner. Plus, not everyone goes through all the stages.
Having said that, grief can be of two main types while dealing with loss of a loved one:
Maybe you were too busy with the funeral arrangements and taking care of your family and did not get enough time to process your loss. Perhaps something about the way people reacted to your loss confused you.
Or maybe, your loss hurts a core belief you hold dear to your heart. For instance, if you thought you were a strong and independent person, experiencing a loss can make you feel weak, sad, and dependent. If your relationship with the deceased person was complicated, that could add another dimension to the grieving process. It may take some time and effort before you can look back on the relationship and adjust to the loss.
Complicated grief is when you feel your suffering is disproportionate to the loss. In other words, you think you might be overreacting or judging your grieving process instead of allowing yourself to feel and experience it completely.
Such a form of grief can result from an invalidated loss, past unresolved trauma, or delayed grief. Trauma due to complicated grief under very severe conditions can result in persistent complex bereavement disorder.
Acknowledging that complicated grief is normal and going to a therapist may help you identify any unhealthy beliefs and limiting mindsets that are causing you difficulties with processing your grief.
What are coping mechanisms?
Coping mechanisms are strategies people use - consciously or subconsciously - to process their stress, trauma, or grief. Often, such mechanisms help people adjust, move on with their life, and maintain their emotional wellbeing while dealing with life-altering events.
Coping mechanisms can either be healthy or unhealthy. The key to figuring out whether a strategy is healthy or unhealthy is to imagine what will happen five minutes, five hours, and five days after you use it. For instance, if you were to start an argument, how would you feel 5 minutes later? What about 5 hours and 5 years? Foresee these outcomes beforehand to make sure you are not indulging in unhealthy coping mechanisms, as they can take a toll on your mental health in the long run.
To grieve the loss of someone in your life, emotion-focused coping skills are quite helpful. Think about what makes you feel better without hurting you. A favourite childhood movie? Creating art or listening to music? Rely on these to evoke positive emotions to help you get through difficult phases.
On the other hand, if you want to do something that closely involves the person you have lost, you can try to organise a scattering ceremony for their ashes, compose a poem about their lives, write a letter to the deceased, or even start a charity under their name. Such initiatives can offer you a sense of closure and peace.
How can you cope with loss?
We have a few suggestions for you to help you cope better. Go through the list below:
- Positive reframing: It is natural to feel there are no positives when it comes to loss. But with positive reframing, you are not disregarding the importance of your loss. Instead, you are focusing on appreciating the aspects that may still connect you with the thing/person you have lost.
- Humour: Look back on any funny memories your loved one and you had created together. You can watch your favourite comedy or revisit goofy pictures from the past. The goal of using humour to cope is not to disregard the importance of your loss. It is to help you hold on to happier emotions that may bring you some relief.
- Acceptance: It is normal to sometimes feel like you will never come to terms with your losee. However, it can help to focus on what comes next for you and how you can learn to live while acknowledging the loss as a part of you.
Take some time to think about your past losses and reflect on them. Is your current experience helping you mourn the loss? Or is it keeping you from actively thinking about it? Reflecting on what helped you in the past and using similar strategies to deal with your current situation can prove to be effective.
Over the last few years, the entire world has gone through a collective transformation. A lot of us have lost our loved ones or have faced sadness in other forms. During times like this, it is normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or helpless. That is exactly what therapy comes in!
Therapy can help us process our grief, come to terms with reality, and find ways to lead a content and mindful life even after experiencing loss. Your therapist can also enable you to identify and develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with grief. In case you are not ready for in-person therapy, online therapy could be an excellent alternative.
Our team of expert psychologists at Rocket Health can help you cope with the loss of a loved one and aid your healing journey, no matter what you are going through. All our therapists are non-judgemental, empathetic, and offer a safe space for your thoughts and feelings.
So, if you feel like you need help, get started today!