Throughout life, we all experience loss. We can experience loss in our friendships, or experience loss by career changes or residential relocation. We also experience loss when we lose someone who has special meaning and purpose in our life. Loss can be painful and difficult to bear. Since we come from different cultures, beliefs and backgrounds, the personal reaction and experiences related to loss will differ for each person.
The hurt and pains that are felt from loss can be identified as "grief." Donna R. Williams defines grief as "the emotional, physical, and spiritual response to the loss or anticipated loss of someone or something in whom or in which one has been invested." Usually, the closer the relationship, the more acute the pain is at the time of separation from the one we loved.
Grief is a dynamic process. This changing process involves both emotional and physical energy. During this period of grief, it is not unusual to experience feelings of shock, numbness, anger, guilt, confusion, regret, resentment or depression. Some people may experience physical changes such as weight loss or weight gain, anxiety, and a weakened ability to fight off disease or fatigue. Not every person will experience the same feelings of physical changes. It may depend on the type of relationship, type of illness, the age of the person, and the circumstances of death.
Grief is unique; therefore, each person proceeds through the grief process at his/her own pace. There is no right way or wrong way to grieve and no specific time frame. It is important for the bereaved to mentally process the loss and its unique meaning. Sharing the story with others helps the loss to be accepted as real. Some people may also express their feelings or grief through music, art, poetry, or writings. Unresolved feelings of anger, fear, guilt and regret can block or prolong the healing process.
The purpose of grief is to restructure — to put life back together again. During this process, many changes can occur. The bereaved may develop new skills, attitudes, relationships or insights and in the process may change from what he/she was prior to the loss. These changes can be painful and frightening and yet each person has a choice regarding change. Restructure and growth occurs with recognition of choices and assumed responsibility for one's own life. The outcome of such growth can result in the development of new outlooks and the ability for the bereaved to experience the joys of life again.
Grief takes time. There will be good days and sad days. Days such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays may bring on memories that may be painful. Recognize these feelings and take it one day at a time.
- Accept your feelings of grief.
- Learn about the reactions to grief.
- Seek and accept help.
- Express your grief through sharing, writing, art, etc.
- Involve yourself in meaningful activities.
- Don't be afraid to have a good time and laugh again.