Acknowledging and Accepting an Unwelcome Companion—Grief


A Few Things to Know About Grieving, Bereavement and How to Cope

We all experience loss or significant change at some point in our lives, which can come hand in hand with grief—the anguish we feel in response. Like an unwelcome guest, grief can show up (sometimes unannounced) and linger, ruining our mood and just generally making things difficult. While it’s unfortunately not possible to ask grief to leave immediately, there are ways to work through it. So, we’re sharing a few things to help you make its presence a little more tolerable the next time it comes knocking on your door.

Grief Has Many Causes

Though usually associated with the death of a loved one, grief can accompany any of life’s changes—including the positive ones. It’s easier to understand how hardships like the loss of a job or end of a relationship can be a cause, but even exciting developments bring with them some aspect of loss. While a career change or move to a different city mean new experiences to look forward to, on the other hand, they can trigger sadness at leaving behind the comfort of what’s familiar.

It’s also possible to experience sorrow from the absence of something in the same way you would a loss. For example, when it comes to fertility issues, studies have shown that individuals may grieve for the life with children that they’d planned for. Those who undergo unsuccessful fertility treatment may feel the same pain as a parent who loses a child. Additionally, because situations like these are not as straightforward as someone passing away, anyone mourning due to infertility may also feel isolated in their sorrow.

Grief Manifests in Various Forms

We tend to think of grief as just one thing, or associate it with symptoms like sadness and feeling lost or helpless, but there are actually distinct types.

  • Conventional grief is the type we commonly think of, often experienced after a loss or impactful change. This includes bereavement (the grief associated with the death of someone close to you). An important characteristic is that those who experience it are able to process—usually with the support of friends and family or a mental health professional—and begin to move forward. Depending on the loss, the grief may not fully dissipate, but it will fade significantly as time goes on.
  • Anticipatory grief is caused by the expectation of an impending loss or change. While conventional grief involves the past, this involves a future outcome, whether or not that outcome is certain. It can occur for a short while or even years, which is often the case for those diagnosed with chronic or degenerative conditions, as well as their loved ones and caregivers.
  • Complicated grief, also known as persistent complex bereavement disorder, occurs when the symptoms of grief remain intense and prevent those who are experiencing it from getting back to their usual selves over time. Initial symptoms are similar to conventional grief, but they may persist and even become more intense. While its cause isn’t known, the likelihood of facing this disorder increases in cases of sudden or unexpected death like an accident or suicide, which can be particularly traumatic.
There’s No Single Method for Mourning

Though grief is a universal experience and we’ve shared some common causes and forms, the process of grieving is entirely individual. Everyone’s response is impacted by several factors, including existing mental health conditions and life experiences. Most people are familiar with the Kubler-Ross model, which includes five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance. However, even people who experience these stages won’t necessarily do so linearly, or on a specific timeline.

At first, grief can invade every aspect of your life, but know that the intensity should diminish over time. It may not feel like a friend, but it’s important to embrace it and allow yourself to work through those negative emotions. By doing so, you’ll one day feel that grief is simply walking beside you and, eventually, it’ll only drop by for an occasional, quick visit before heading on its way again.

Be sure to seek support whenever you feel you need it, especially by talking about how you’re feeling with people you trust. Seeking grief counselling services can be incredibly helpful for you to process your emotions and build resilience that will allow you to cope in newfound ways. Keep in mind that wherever you are on your journey with grief, there are brighter days ahead.

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