Grief is a physical and emotional process that is triggered by loss. The process of grieving helps us to let go of that which was lost. Grief can be triggered by the loss of anything central to our sense of self; for example, loss of a loved one through death, loss of our job, our home, or a spouse through divorce. Such losses shake up our ideas of who we are and what we can expect in life. Grief usually occurs in defined stages, although it is not always linear - we sometimes cycle back through previous stages. An abbreviated outline of these stages is as follows (see links for more details):
Shock, disbelief, and denial. The mind at first cannot quite comprehend the full meaning of a major loss and so we experience this stage as a protective mechanism until we are better able to cope with the facts.
Anger, depression, and despair. When the reality of the loss sets in, the person often experiences intense feelings of sadness, anger, and despair. They may become disorganized, confused, and have difficulty concentrating. They may have physical symptoms, including tightness in the chest, headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue.
Understanding and acceptance. Finally, the person realizes that things will never be as they were and begins to accept their new reality. The above emotions diminish. The person begins to try on new behaviors and to establish a new reality.
Following are some tips for coping with and moving through grief:
* Maintain basic self-care. Get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and get regular exercise.
* Use your support systems. Friends, family, and co-workers all want to help. Reach out to them. Consider talking to a professional counselor or pastor. Support groups are also very helpful.
* Allow emotional release. It is okay to cry, get angry, and feel whatever you feel. But don't engage in self-destructive behaviors.
* Avoid mood altering substances. Alcohol and drugs may briefly numb the pain but they prevent resolution of grief, which prolongs the process.
* Give yourself permission to feel good. It is not disloyal to begin to enjoy some pleasant times.