Getting Over Grief:

Understanding its Stages and How to Heal

INTRODUCTION TO GRIEF

Grief is a reactionary feeling of sadness experienced following any major loss. It is often associated with suffering, and is also considered a necessary process of deliverance termed resilience. When an event causes a crisis in the life of an individual, a radical change is made in the situation established until then. Grief also has the meaning of ‘definitive loss’ of an object that an individual can hold.

DEFINING GRIEF

Grief is a human and personal response to loss. Most of the literature dealing with grief refers it as a result of the loss in human life. However, a grief response can also occur in the face of other types of losses such as health, career, status, role, divorce, financial loss, and more. The reaction includes different expressions of sadness, anger and other emotional, cognitive and behavioral components, which may vary from person to person and from case to case.

Prolonged grief can also lead to depression, which is a common mental illness affecting 18% (40 million adults) of the US population every year.1 In the event of any definitive loss, the intensity of the grief and its duration is affected by the degree of emotional closeness to the deceased person. There are also customs that represents external, social or interpersonal characteristics of mourning. These customs are culturally dependent and include the existence of social rituals that vary from culture to culture, and from one religion to another.

STAGES OF GRIEF

Denial

The stage can be expressed in statements such as ‘I feel okay’, ‘It does not happen to me’, ‘It cannot be’. At this stage, the person affected does not believe in the knowledge of the loss and the approaching end, and is convinced that this is a mistake. Kubler-Ross refers to this response as a temporary defense mechanism that the person needs when receiving difficult information because of the great difficulty in accepting this reality. Denial allows a person a sort of time out to organize and mobilize forces, and gradually switch to more adaptive defense mechanisms.2

Anger

This stage can be expressed in statements such as:

  • Why me?
  • It’s not fair!
  • How can this happen to me?

For example, most people cannot deny long-term death or the death of a close person, and instead of denial usually express harsh feelings of anger, envy, and hatred. This is a difficult stage for dealing with people in a person’s environment as anger is often directed outwards at the environment, and sometimes in a seemingly arbitrary and indiscriminate manner. Apparently, understanding and accepting anger from those around can help a person to cope more adaptively while an opposite reaction from the environment may create feelings of loneliness.

Bargaining

The stage can be expressed in statements such as:

  • I’ll do anything, just give me a few more years to live.

This stage characterizes terminally ill patients, who deal with the imminent gospel of death and the acceptance of a gradual but rare loss in the process of mourning for a loss that has already occurred. The patient expresses his desire to postpone the end in bargaining in an attempt to prevent the inevitable. The bargaining usually involves a commitment to any ‘payment’ from the patient in return for the postponement of the sentence or the fulfillment of last wishes.3

Depression

The stage can be expressed in statements such as:

  • It’s all pointless now, why bother?’
  • He’s dead/I’m going to die, what’s the point of doing anything?

This stage is characterized by a strong sense of loss, sad thoughts about the future, guilt, shame, failure, and missed opportunity. Kubler-Ross claimed that at this stage, it is difficult to encourage and calm the griever and that the feeling of depression is important emotional processing of the situation, which can finally move towards acceptance of the situation. She recommends supporting the griever at this stage by listening and understanding.4

Acceptance

This stage can be expressed in statements such as:

  • I will be fine.
  • I cannot fight it, but at least prepare for it.

This step appears if the person has passed the previous steps with the support of the environment. At this point, there is a concession of the struggle against fate and the cessation of negotiations and accounts with the past and with the environment.

At this stage, the person is able to express a variety of feelings from the previous stages to accept the finality of life and to part from the relatives who have lost or are about to lose. The person may gradually become withdrawn, relieved of the feelings of pain and the heat of the struggle against the situation so he or she may feel exhausted and need a great rest. Moreover, acceptance of the situation allows a process of separation.

According to Kübler-Ross, most of the grievers reach this stage, but there are few who continue the fight against their loss or denial. It is also important to distinguish between despair, surrender, and acceptance.4

VIDEO: THE 5 STAGES OF GRIEF EXPLAINED

TRANSCRIPT
00:00
grief is a complicated and very powerful
00:04
emotion and unfortunately it’s very
00:07
likely that at some points in your life
00:09
you’ll go through it I mean everyone
00:12
goes through a state of grieving at some
00:15
point in their life and there’s
00:17
different theories about how we process
00:19
our grief the theories they don’t differ
00:21
significantly in any case the stages of
00:25
grief are exactly the same for each
00:29
person and some people go from one stage
00:32
to another quickly or you know you may
00:35
skip a stage here or there depending on
00:37
your circumstance and others may get
00:40
stuck on a single stage of grief and
00:43
have difficulty moving on that knowing
00:46
these Universal stages of grief and
00:49
knowing what to expect
00:50
can really help you deal with your
00:52
emotions once you’re faced with your own
00:54
personal loss and grief
00:56
it helps enormous Lee to know what’s
00:58
going on it doesn’t matter you know if
01:01
what you experienced slightly different
01:03
than the theory it’s going to give you a
01:06
sense that you’re not alone with your
01:07
pain others have gone through this and
01:10
survived and so will you so knowing the
01:12
stages of grief it also helps when
01:14
you’re trying to help another person you
01:15
care for deal with his or her grief each
01:18
stage of grief has meaning and when
01:21
going through them your goal is to
01:23
process each stage with all its issues
01:25
and move on to the next until you’re
01:27
able to accept your loss and can move on
01:30
with your life and here you’ll see the
01:32
five classic stages that affect everyone
01:35
who encounters a loss of some kind now
01:37
these are just guidelines they’re not
01:39
strict rules but I hope that this video
01:41
is going to help you move through the
01:43
pain of your loss and also help you know
01:46
hope that what you learn and what you
01:48
experience will make you stronger
01:50
one day you’ll need that knowledge and
01:52
that strength to help with someone
01:54
else’s grief so let’s talk about the
01:57
first stage of grief shock and denial
01:59
and this is the first reaction that most
02:02
people have when hearing the news of a
02:04
devastating loss and you know frozen
02:07
disbelief in denial may follow if
02:09
someone brings the news to you that
02:11
someone very close to you has passed
02:13
it’s very likely you’re going to react
02:15
with this shake in you no no no no kind
02:18
of feeling your mind is simply not able
02:20
to process the horror and it’s
02:23
protecting you by completely denying the
02:26
reality you might decide to believe that
02:28
someone’s making a practical joke in
02:30
some cases you know you might even laugh
02:32
when you hear the news the way a child
02:34
laughs in the dark to dispel the fear
02:37
numbness may follow it’s nature’s way of
02:40
letting you deal only with your emotions
02:42
that you’re capable of handling and
02:44
denial it’s really a very helpful stage
02:47
of grief but at some point you’ll be
02:49
ready to face the reality and reality
02:52
means a range of very painful emotions
02:54
that are going to follow there’s no rule
02:56
add to how long you should be in denial
02:59
you know there’s no rule that everyone
03:01
has to go through the denial stage you
03:03
might be able to jump straight into
03:05
highly emotional stages such as anger or
03:08
guilt but if you persist in denying the
03:11
reality of your loss you do need help
03:13
and that help can come from a close
03:16
friend or a relative who knows you
03:18
sometimes the help of a trained
03:19
therapist or grief counselor may be
03:21
necessary you need to accept that the
03:24
loss is a part of life and that the pain
03:26
that comes with the loss will slowly
03:28
pass the love you feel will remain and
03:31
you’ll always have the memories you need
03:34
to let yourself continue to grieve in
03:36
order to reach acceptance which is the
03:39
final stage of this all and only then
03:42
can life truly go on the next stage is
03:45
pain and guilt once you get out of this
03:47
denial phase the pain is going to hit
03:49
you with full blast and it might feel
03:51
overwhelming at times it might be very
03:54
tempting during this stage to try to
03:55
dull the pain with drugs or alcohol but
03:59
pain can be healing too like the pain of
04:01
Earth you know it results in a new
04:03
reality the reality of your new life and
04:06
this feeling of guilt it’s very common
04:09
during this stage it may come from
04:10
unresolved issues it can be the guilt of
04:13
surviving a loved one especially if the
04:15
lawsuit experienced is the loss of
04:17
someone younger
04:18
you might feel guilty for not showing
04:20
your love while you could or showing
04:23
proper appreciation the excruciating
04:26
pain
04:27
during the stage it may lead to anxiety
04:30
especially with you know if you’re a
04:32
more emotional person and while the
04:34
feeling of guilt will pass once you’re
04:36
able to think rationally the pain will
04:39
remain it and it will be part of your
04:41
life throughout the grieving process and
04:43
unfortunately beyond but slowly we’ll be
04:47
able to function and live with your pain
04:49
and the reality of your loss and move on
04:51
the next stage is anger and bargaining
04:54
your overwhelming pain takes many forms
04:57
and it’s very common that people feel
05:00
powerful a powerful feeling of anger
05:04
this can be anger against doctors who
05:07
couldn’t do anymore
05:08
or against relatives who did not give
05:11
more time to you against God against
05:14
destiny you know you may ask questions
05:16
like why me how could this happen to
05:18
such a nice person
05:20
anger is healthy you know after the
05:23
disruptive feeling of guilt in the
05:25
previous stage of grieving you know pain
05:27
leaves you without anchor you feel
05:29
totally out of control in your life and
05:31
anger puts you back in control we’re
05:35
trained to control anger from a very
05:37
early age and anger gives a practical
05:39
outlet to your devastating pain it’s
05:42
very important that’s a vent your anger
05:44
to those closest to you you know they’re
05:46
also grieving you need them you don’t
05:48
want to lose them you’ve lost enough
05:49
already the stages of grief do not
05:52
follow each other in the same order for
05:54
all people you know anger can easily
05:57
combine with guilt and turn on you you
06:00
know even when you lash out at others
06:01
deep down you might feel that you failed
06:03
your loved one in some way if someone
06:06
you love is terminally ill you might try
06:08
bargaining you might try to bargain with
06:10
God or with destiny you might promise to
06:13
be a better person or you know stop
06:15
smoking or to be more generous if only
06:18
bargaining is particularly powerful in
06:22
this stage for people who have been
06:24
diagnosed with a terminal illness and
06:26
bargaining for your own life can offer
06:28
hope or a channel for pain that gives
06:30
more control as with other stages of
06:33
grief anger and bargaining they can last
06:35
a short time they can last weeks months
06:38
or you might skip them all together
06:40
it’s important to look for signs of
06:42
uncontrolled anger which can irreparably
06:44
damage your relationships with those
06:46
closest and dearest to you the next
06:49
stage is depression and loneliness all
06:52
the powerful emotions that follow denial
06:54
are exhausting but they represent hope
06:57
strong emotions are one way your pain
07:00
shows its ugly face but at some point
07:02
the hope fades and you face the reality
07:05
and that reality is devastating the
07:08
loved one is really gone and there’s no
07:11
way to change that fact that life will
07:13
never be the same you are left alone I
07:17
know that’s upsetting to hear you might
07:19
feel that the life you you’re a makes no
07:22
sense anymore you know depression sets
07:24
in and feeling depressed it’s a normal
07:27
reaction to a devastating loss and in a
07:29
way if you don’t get depressed you’re
07:31
not really facing your loss and those
07:33
around you might have a difficult time
07:35
seeing you solo you know you may hear
07:37
the term snap out of it
07:39
you know you’ll hear it a lot you know
07:41
you may be offered antidepressants or
07:43
phone numbers of therapists your your
07:46
priest your rabbi your religious
07:48
councilor may offer counseling your
07:51
friends may offer numerous casseroles
07:54
you know people try to help where they
07:57
can and everyone wants to help get you
07:59
out of the blues at some point you’re
08:01
going to start noticing that life does
08:03
go on and the depression it will slowly
08:06
start to lift the pain will remain but
08:09
with less intensity with less
08:10
hopelessness and sometimes the
08:12
depression continues to deepen you might
08:14
refuse to fight hopelessness thoughts of
08:17
suicide may be intruding you know that’s
08:20
the time when hope is necessary and
08:22
people who suffer from deep clinical
08:25
depression that can’t shake it are not
08:27
able to look for help the help has to
08:29
come to them family members friends they
08:31
need to be on the lookout for the
08:33
depression that keeps getting worse
08:35
instead of better and look for
08:37
professional help there’s no rule how
08:40
long you should allow depression to wash
08:41
over you days weeks it depends on your
08:44
personality the enormity of your loss
08:46
and the support you have from those that
08:49
love you now a loner together you need
08:51
to rejoin the life with all its pain and
08:53
men
08:54
and don’t forget it will get better in
08:56
time finally five is acceptance it’s the
09:00
fifth stage and maybe you know this this
09:03
is the goal this is the end game here
09:06
accepting your loss does not come in a
09:09
moment of Epiphany it doesn’t work like
09:11
that it’s a slow and painful process and
09:15
it is the result of all the stages of
09:17
your grief it is the new form your pain
09:21
takes the form that will be part of your
09:23
new life
09:24
accepting your loss doesn’t mean that
09:26
you’re through with it it just means
09:28
that you accept the death as a part of
09:31
your life
09:32
and you accept that you’re starting with
09:34
the new life one enriched by the person
09:36
who was part of your previous life the
09:39
life that you will build on the ashes on
09:42
the previous one the life that will
09:44
celebrate the loved one you lost
09:47
and not mourn and there will be times
09:50
months and even years after your loss
09:52
when you will revert to one of the
09:54
stages of grief for a moment or two or
09:57
maybe even a little bit longer there
09:58
will be painful reminders which drag you
10:01
back into the depths of your despair but
10:04
they will be rare and you will be strong
10:06
enough to deal with them at that point
10:08
you know holidays may be painful for you
10:11
because they’re going to remind you of
10:12
how they look you know when you
10:14
celebrated them with the person you lost
10:17
but the stages of grief will prepare you
10:19
for this and will allow you to deal with
10:22
this loss in your own way and you know
10:25
this is really only the beginning of
10:28
understanding your loss and your grief
10:31
for the real step-by-step process to
10:35
overcome your grief to move on to a more
10:38
positive mindset one where you can enjoy
10:41
life again and love again and be happy
10:45
smile and laugh again I highly recommend
10:48
you visit transform grief calm where I
10:51
not only outline how to navigate these
10:54
stages of grief in a productive and
10:56
expedited way but also show you
10:59
productive ways to move into a better
11:03
life where you can feel good and look
11:06
forward to the day
11:08
head so checkout transform grief calm
11:11
right now

COMMON CAUSES OF GRIEF

Loss of a Loved One

Spouse’s death is usually considered as one of the most powerful loss. People who have lost their spouse majorly describe their conditions as they have lost half of their own self. Crying bouts, loneliness, emotional instability, and hopelessness are some of the most common feelings of widows and widowers. Likewise, the loss of a parent also brings about a significant psychological loss to an individual.3

Illness

People suffering from terminal illnesses are mainly categorized here. Suffering from a painful medical condition and constantly living with a fact that ‘I am going to die soon’ is painful beyond our imagination. This usually brings about the constant feeling of hopelessness, peevishness, hatred, and disbelief in an individual.

Trauma

Traumatic events can be natural disasters, wars, kidnappings, rape, or accidents that threaten serious injury. This also includes war experiences, terrorist attacks, torture, camp imprisonment, political imprisonment, or other violent attacks. These events can cause extreme stress in a person and create feelings of helplessness or horror. The anxiety and stress that this causes in the human being can subside on its own in the majority of those affected, whereby the behavior of these people also changes resulting into long-term or short term grief.

Miscarriage

The miscarriage is the early termination of pregnancy, whether spontaneous or caused by a cause that is either pathological or traumatic. Miscarriage, neonatal death, SIDS or stillbirth of an infant easily takes a form of significant loss in a person’s life. In this case, the parents usually find grief to be the most distressing.5

Divorce

Grief may also occur when someone loses a romantic relationship i.e. breakup or divorce. The long-term association with someone makes the griever to constantly think about the time they spent together.

Birth of a Child with Special Needs

Having a child with a special need can be a shock for some parents. It’s common for parents to mourn the life they expected for their child in order to accept the life their child has been given. Moreover, seeing their child suffers from health issues and painful conditions wrench one’s heart. Parents of a child with special needs usually express the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and constant stress.

RISK FACTORS FOR PROLONGED GRIEF

Grief, the normal stage of an individual’s life is risky in most cases. Severe reactions occur in approximately 10% to 15% of the people. Also, severe reactions also occur in individuals with depression before the loss of a loved one. Research shows that a married couple has a reduced risk of breaking up after the death of their child. On the other hand, grief usually becomes a part of life, but it carries risks if the loss is severe. People with depressive conditions earlier usually get the most serious impact. Common risks associate includes the following:

Environmental

The risk of developing stress disorder is higher when there is a dependency relationship (emotional or otherwise) between the grieving person and the deceased. In children, disorders associated with continuity in child care increases the risk of developing the disorder.

Genetic & Physiological

Long-term Grief may also result in prolonged grieve disorder, mental illnesses and stress disorder in cases of severe loss. Women are at greater risk of developing the disorder than men.

Suicidal Risk

People with a complex but stable diagnosis often reports an increase in suicidal thinking.6

TYPES OF GRIEF

Normal Grief

Contrary to its name, normal grief has no defined guidelines in term of severity and timeline. It is referred to any potential response that you think would resemble grief. People experiencing normal grief feel a gradual decline in emotional intensity and move with their routine life quickly.

Chronic Grief

This involves feelings of hopelessness, disbelief, and situation avoidance for more than a period of 6 months. People with chronic grief often experience intrusive thoughts, and if left unaddressed, it can be converted into serious mental illnesses and disorders such as clinical depression, self-harming or suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse.

Anticipatory Grief

Grieving normally begin when your loved one got diagnosed with something significant and his health started to decline. Feelings concerning this loss started before the person actually pass away as one start assuming about how life would be after him or her. This type of grief is usually difficult as the person is still alive but you started to experience the feelings of confusion and guilt.7

Exaggerated Grief

This type of grief is felt through the escalation of normal grief reactions. This intensification tends to worsen with the passage of time. It may also result in suicidal thoughts, self-harming behavior, phobias, abnormal fears, nightmares, and occurrence of basic psychiatric disorders.

Delayed Grief

It is when the response is delayed towards a loss for a certain time. Reactions, in this case, could be excessive and the person may not realize initially that this delayed grief is the actual cause for his condition.

Traumatic Grief

It can be a result to emotional or physical trauma or injury. One may experience severe traumatic grief, which may result in a persisted and deep feeling of guilt, self-destructive or self-hatred behavior, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, violent outbursts, and radical lifestyle change.

Absent Grief

When someone does not acknowledge grief and shows no related signs. This happens when the griever in a complete state of denial or shock. If someone experience absent grief for an extended time period, it is seriously concerning.

Other forms of Grief:

There are various other types of grief including disfranchised grief, cumulative grief, masked grief, distorted grief, inhibited grief, secondary losses, abbreviate grief, and collective grief.

PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF GRIEF

Digestive Problems

Grief often results in appetite and digestive issue. A griever commonly complains about having disruptive changes in routine eating habits and digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, feeling of hollowness in stomach, nausea, and queasiness.6

Energy Loss

Tolerating a loss or grief is hard work and takes a strong toll on our bodies. For several unknown reasons, a griever may experience disrupted sleep and eating patterns, fatigues, weakness and overall low levels of energy in the entire body to perform any task.

Impaired Motor Skills

Everyday jobs like driving require the best of your motor skills. However, an individual grappling with a loss could experience impairment of motor skills. This includes loss of concentration or focus, the unexpected response of emotions such as sobbing or tears, etc.6

Weakened Immune System

A definitive loss like losing your loved one also impact your immune system, leaving it weak and suppressed while making you more vulnerable to illnesses and infections like flu, cold, and viral fever. People with a chronic health condition may experience severe symptoms.

Pain

Grief may also induce the unpretentious feeling of discomfort or pain, such as migraine or headaches, heaviness or inflation in limbs, aches in the head, neck, back or skeletal joint, and muscular pains.

Too Much or Too Little Sleep

A griever may experience insomnia when he/she finds it difficult to sleep. This results in affecting griever’s physical and mental coordination, cognitive/brain response, and functionality. On the contrary, a griever may sleep too much as it helps him escape the grief. In this condition, it may leave the person lethargic and weak.

Weight Gain/Loss

Some people put some extra pound during mourning as they usually become distracted from their physical well-being and give up workout. Likewise, another griever may experience loss in appetite and does not eat as much as he or she normally eats. This may result in the loss of some pounds.8

MENTAL SYMPTOMS OF GRIEF

Anxiety

An individual grappling with grief may experience an anxiety attack and anxiety disorder in the long-term. An individual dealing with a definitive loss may become over-anxious about the situation, which is normal. However, if a person constantly feels difficulty in coping with his daily routine, he or she may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Irritability

Loss of appetite, decreased energy level, disruptive sleep, inflammation, and pains; all these symptoms collective result in increased irritability within the griever.

Depression & Loneliness

People coping with a loss or grief for too long may experience episodes of depression. However, depression could be short-term as well, and a person may come out of the situation as soon as the intensification of the grief reduces. The feeling of persisting loneliness and hopelessness is also a common emotional symptom experienced by the grievers.9

EXPRESSIONS OF GRIEF

Avoidance

A griever may find escaping the situation easier than reacting to it. Avoidance is one way that a person actually responds to loss or grief. Some people find it more comfortable to avoid the entire situation that is going on around them and choose to continue with their routine to escape grief and pain.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking, substance abuse, and alcoholism are common after a loss. People find it comforting being drunk as it also helps them escape the situation.

Crying

After sadness, crying is the most common expression of grief. A griever outburst in tear when overwhelmed by the emotions and his suffering from the loss. Some people experience episodic crying when they just can’t handle pain and emotional sufferings.8

Difficulty Moving On

Moving on is never easy after a huge loss. People may struggle with their emotional and physical situation to move on in life. Some people are expressive enough to share their feeling to others expressing that they are finding it really difficult to move on in life.8

Guilt

Guilt is a unique expression of grief, when a griever may constantly blame himself, destiny, fate or someone else for the loss that occurs. This makes him feel guilty all the time, thinking that he might have prevented the loss from occurring if did this or that.

Isolation

People isolate themselves if they avoid the situation for too long. Constant feeling of loneliness and lack of finding sturdy emotional support may result in isolation.

Insomnia

Total inability to sleep or disruptive sleeping patterns are some other expressions of grief. Some people may express opposite symptoms and behavior.

Overworking

Another expression that people may often choose is to indulge themselves in work. People have been witnessed working extra hours in workplaces to keep themselves busy, especially during the days when they are coping up a loss.

Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal tendencies arise within a griever if they underwent depression for too long after suffering the loss. People may even think of ending up their life just to escape their sufferings and loss.9

Apathy

A griever expresses a lack of enthusiasm, concern, and interest in routine work, as well as, in relationships too.

Binge Eating

Many people express their grief by indulging into binge eating. People have complained about craving for too much of a particular food during mourning. For instance, one may feel eating McDonalds three time a day for a whole week.

Confusion

A griever may stay confused for short and long-term due to his ongoing sufferings. Confusion may be caused due to lack of concentration and focus, and other physical symptoms that affect the mental well-being of the individual.

Depression

Feeling of stretched stress, anxiety, loneliness, and hopelessness result in depression. A griever usually expresses symptoms and conditions of depression throughout the period of mourning and even after that.

Distracting One’s Self

Like avoidance, one may choose to distract himself from grief, the auxiliary topics, and things that go around to keep himself distracted.

Increased Negative Emotions

After facing a definitive loss, having negative thoughts becomes more common about one’s self, other family members, employment, life, children, religious belief, and almost about anything. This is simply a way to express their fear and anxiety while having grief at the back wheel of their mind.

Mistrust in Life or People

People usually express their grief by showing mistrust in other people or life. This is another way of expressing the heavy loss that they are bearing with.

Overcompensation

It is an expression to grief that one may use to cover his pain, frustrations, weaknesses, loneliness, and feeling of sadness to cope up the loss.

Sadness

Sadness is probably the most common expression of grief that one may go through. A griever may constantly express his suffering through sadness, which may turn into tear outburst or emotional breakdown when intensified.

GRIEF AND ADDICTION

Self-Medicating and Unhealthy Coping Skills

People usually get into negative or unhealthy coping to make a quick fix to avoid grief situation or pain. Unhealthy coping involves practices like isolation, procrastination, over-eating, alcoholism, substance abuse, over-sleeping, smoking, etc. Apart from that, people may misuse over-the-counter medicine to get rid of the pain, inflammation, and other physical symptoms that remind them of grief. Unhealthy coping and self-medication usually end up with worsening the symptoms when people have complained about having ‘numb emotions’ or ‘total situation avoidance’. Likewise, self-medication may also result in triggering some other physical issue and deteriorating well-being.10

HOW TO COPE WITH GRIEF

Journaling

Journaling is considered as one of the healthiest coping technique that helps a person self-manage his grief. It encourages to keep a diary or journal to write out the thoughts and feelings or about the events that are surrounding your life. It helps people coping up very effectively as all of their emotional burdens comes out on a paper.8

Routine

Sticking ones-self to a certain routine may also help. The psychiatrist treating a patient with grief disorders prefer providing them with a busy schedule to which they should stick sternly. This actually takes away all the time that a griever may spend unproductively thinking about his loss, and replaces it with productive activities that provide happiness and comfort.

Eat Healthy

Eating healthy always provides happiness as it boosts your metabolism and provides you with all the nutrition that keeps your energy level and moods elevated.

Counseling

A counselor or psychiatrist can always help coming up with the best coping strategies that suit your specific condition and type of grief that you experience.10

VIDEO: WE MOVE FORWARD WITH GRIEF

TRANSCRIPT
00:12
So, 2014 was a big year for me.
00:15
Do you ever have that,
00:16
just like a big year, like a banner year?
00:19
For me, it went like this:
00:20
October 3, I lost my second pregnancy.
00:23
And then October 8, my dad died of cancer.
00:27
And then on November 25, my husband Aaron died
00:29
after three years with stage-four glioblastoma,
00:32
which is just a fancy word for brain cancer.
00:36
So, I’m fun.
00:38
(Laughter)
00:40
People love to invite me out all the time.
00:43
Packed social life.
00:45
Usually, when I talk about this period of my life,
00:48
the reaction I get is essentially:
00:51
(Sighs)
00:53
“I can’t — I can’t imagine.”
00:57
But I do think you can.
00:59
I think you can.
01:00
And I think that you should
01:02
because, someday, it’s going to happen to you.
01:04
Maybe not these specific losses in this specific order or at this speed,
01:09
but like I said, I’m very fun
01:10
and the research that I have seen will stun you:
01:14
everyone you love has a 100 percent chance of dying.
01:18
(Laughter)
01:20
And that’s why you came to TED.
01:22
(Laughter)
01:24
(Applause)
01:28
So, since all of this loss happened,
01:30
I’ve made it a career to talk about death and loss,
01:34
not just my own, because it’s pretty easy to recap,
01:36
but the losses and tragedies that other people have experienced.
01:40
It’s a niche, I have to say.
01:43
(Laughter)
01:45
It’s a small niche, and I wish I made more money, but …
01:48
(Laughter)
01:49
I’ve written some very uplifting books,
01:52
host a very uplifting podcast, I started a little nonprofit.
01:56
I’m just trying to do what I can
01:57
to make more people comfortable with the uncomfortable,
02:01
and grief is so uncomfortable.
02:04
It’s so uncomfortable, especially if it’s someone else’s grief.
02:09
So part of that work is this group that I started with my friend Moe,
02:13
who is also a widow;
02:14
we call it the Hot Young Widows Club.
02:17
(Laughter)
02:18
And it’s real, we have membership cards
02:21
and T-shirts.
02:23
And when your person dies, your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend,
02:26
literally don’t care if you were married,
02:28
your friends and your family are just going to look around
02:31
through friends of friends of friends of friends
02:34
until they find someone who’s gone through something similar,
02:37
and then they’ll push you towards each other
02:39
so you can talk amongst yourselves and not get your sad on other people.
02:43
(Laughter)
02:45
So that’s what we do.
02:47
It’s just a series of small groups,
02:50
where men, women, gay, straight, married, partnered,
02:54
can talk about their dead person,
02:58
and say the things
03:00
that the other people in their lives aren’t ready or willing to hear yet.
03:03
Huge range of conversations.
03:06
Like, “My husband died two weeks ago,
03:08
I can’t stop thinking about sex, is that normal?”
03:10
Yeah.
03:11
“What if it’s one of the Property Brothers?”
03:13
Less normal, but I’ll accept it.
03:15
(Laughter)
03:18
Things like, “Look, when I’m out in public and I see old people holding hands,
03:22
couples who have clearly been together for decades,
03:25
and then I look at them and I imagine
03:27
all of the things they’ve been through together,
03:30
the good things, the bad things,
03:31
the arguments they’ve had over who should take out the trash …
03:34
I just find my heart filled with rage.”
03:37
(Laughter)
03:38
And that example is personal to me.
03:42
Most of the conversations that we have in the group
03:45
can and will just stay amongst ourselves,
03:47
but there are things that we talk about
03:49
that the rest of the world — the world that is grief-adjacent
03:52
but not yet grief-stricken —
03:53
could really benefit from hearing.
03:55
And if you can’t tell,
03:57
I’m only interested in / capable of unscientific studies,
04:01
so what I did was go to The Hot Young Widows Club
04:03
and say, “Hello, friends, remember when your person died?” They did.
04:08
“Do you remember all the things people said to you?”
04:11
“Oh, yeah.”
04:12
“Which ones did you hate the most?”
04:14
I got a lot of comments, lot of answers, people say a lot of things,
04:17
but two rose to the top pretty quickly.
04:20
“Moving on.”
04:23
Now, since 2014,
04:26
I will tell you I have remarried a very handsome man named Matthew,
04:30
we have four children in our blended family,
04:33
we live in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
04:36
We have a rescue dog.
04:38
(Laughter)
04:39
I drive a minivan,
04:41
like the kind where doors open and I don’t even touch them.
04:43
(Laughter)
04:45
Like, by any “mezhure,” life is good.
04:48
I’ve also never said “mezhure,” I’ve never once said it that way.
04:51
(Laughter)
04:56
I don’t know where that came from.
04:58
(Laughter)
05:00
I’ve never heard anyone else say it that way.
05:02
It looks like it should be said that way,
05:04
and that’s why the English language is trash, so …
05:07
(Laughter)
05:08
So impressed with anyone who, like, speaks it
05:10
in addition to a language that makes sense — good job.
05:13
(Laughter)
05:15
But by any measure …
05:16
(Laughter)
05:18
By any measure, life is really, really good, but I haven’t “moved on.”
05:24
I haven’t moved on, and I hate that phrase so much,
05:27
and I understand why other people do.
05:28
Because what it says
05:30
is that Aaron’s life and death and love are just moments
05:34
that I can leave behind me — and that I probably should.
05:38
And when I talk about Aaron, I slip so easily into the present tense,
05:42
and I’ve always thought that made me weird.
05:45
And then I noticed that everybody does it.
05:48
And it’s not because we are in denial or because we’re forgetful,
05:52
it’s because the people we love, who we’ve lost,
05:55
are still so present for us.
05:58
So, when I say, “Oh, Aaron is …”
06:02
It’s because Aaron still is.
06:05
And it’s not in the way that he was before,
06:07
which was much better,
06:09
and it’s not in the way that churchy people try to tell me that he would be.
06:12
It’s just that he’s indelible,
06:17
and so he is present for me.
06:20
Here,
06:21
he’s present for me in the work that I do,
06:24
in the child that we had together,
06:26
in these three other children I’m raising,
06:28
who never met him, who share none of his DNA,
06:31
but who are only in my life because I had Aaron
06:35
and because I lost Aaron.
06:38
He’s present in my marriage to Matthew,
06:40
because Aaron’s life and love and death
06:43
made me the person that Matthew wanted to marry.
06:46
So I’ve not moved on from Aaron,
06:50
I’ve moved forward with him.
06:56
(Applause)
07:02
We spread Aaron’s ashes in his favorite river in Minnesota,
07:07
and when the bag was empty —
07:09
because when you’re cremated, you fit into a plastic bag —
07:13
there were still ashes stuck to my fingers.
07:16
And I could have just put my hands in the water and rinsed them,
07:20
but instead, I licked my hands clean,
07:23
because I was so afraid of losing more than I had already lost,
07:27
and I was so desperate to make sure that he would always be a part of me.
07:32
But of course he would be.
07:34
Because when you watch your person fill himself with poison for three years,
07:39
just so he can stay alive a little bit longer with you,
07:42
that stays with you.
07:45
When you watch him fade from the healthy person he was the night you met
07:49
to nothing, that stays with you.
07:51
When you watch your son, who isn’t even two years old yet,
07:54
walk up to his father’s bed on the last day of his life,
07:57
like he knows what’s coming in a few hours,
07:59
and say, “I love you. All done. Bye, bye.”
08:05
That stays with you.
08:09
Just like when you fall in love, finally, like really fall in love
08:14
with someone who gets you and sees you
08:16
and you even see, “Oh, my God, I’ve been wrong this entire time.
08:19
Love is not a contest or a reality show — it’s so quiet,
08:24
it’s this invisible thread of calm that connects the two of us
08:28
even when everything is chaos,
08:29
when things are falling apart, even when he’s gone.”
08:34
That stays with you.
08:38
We used to do this thing —
08:40
because my hands are always freezing and he’s so warm,
08:43
where I would take my ice-cold hands and shove them up his shirt …
08:46
press them against his hot bod.
08:48
(Laughter)
08:51
And he hated it so much,
08:53
(Laughter)
08:54
but he loved me,
08:56
and after he died, I laid in bed with Aaron
09:01
and I put my hands underneath him
09:05
and I felt his warmth.
09:10
And I can’t even tell you if my hands were cold,
09:13
but I can tell you
09:15
that I knew it was the last time I would ever do that.
09:20
And that that memory is always going to be sad.
09:23
That memory will always hurt.
09:26
Even when I’m 600 years old and I’m just a hologram.
09:28
(Laughter)
09:32
Just like the memory of meeting him is always going to make me laugh.
09:39
Grief doesn’t happen in this vacuum,
09:41
it happens alongside of and mixed in with all of these other emotions.
09:50
So, I met Matthew, my current husband —
09:54
who doesn’t love that title,
09:56
(Laughter)
10:00
but it’s so accurate.
10:02
(Laughter)
10:05
I met Matthew, and …
10:09
there was this audible sigh of relief among the people who love me,
10:12
like, “It’s over!
10:16
She did it.
10:19
She got a happy ending, we can all go home.
10:21
And we did good.”
10:23
And that narrative is so appealing even to me,
10:26
and I thought maybe I had gotten that, too, but I didn’t.
10:30
I got another chapter.
10:33
And it’s such a good chapter — I love you, honey —
10:37
it’s such a good chapter.
10:39
But especially at the beginning, it was like an alternate universe,
10:43
or one of those old “choose your own adventure” books from the ’80s
10:46
where there are two parallel plot lines.
10:48
So I opened my heart to Matthew,
10:50
and my brain was like, “Would you like to think about Aaron?
10:54
Like, the past, the present, future, just get in there,” and I did.
10:59
And all of a sudden, those two plots were unfurling at once,
11:02
and falling in love with Matthew really helped me realize the enormity
11:05
of what I lost when Aaron died.
11:09
And just as importantly,
11:10
it helped me realize that my love for Aaron
11:14
and my grief for Aaron,
11:16
and my love for Matthew, are not opposing forces.
11:22
They are just strands to the same thread.
11:26
They’re the same stuff.
11:30
I’m … what would my parents say?
11:33
I’m not special.
11:35
(Laughter)
11:36
They had four kids, they were like … frankly.
11:39
(Laughter)
11:41
But I’m not, I’m not special.
11:42
I know that, I’m fully aware
11:44
that all day, every day, all around the world,
11:47
terrible things are happening.
11:49
All the time.
11:50
Like I said, fun person.
11:52
But terrible things are happening,
11:54
people are experiencing deeply formative and traumatic losses every day.
12:01
And as part of my job,
12:03
this weird podcast that I have,
12:05
I sometimes talk to people
12:06
about the worst thing that’s ever happened to them.
12:09
And sometimes, that’s the loss of someone they love,
12:12
sometimes days ago or weeks ago, years ago, even decades ago.
12:18
And these people that I interview,
12:20
they haven’t closed themselves around this loss
12:23
and made it the center of their lives.
12:25
They’ve lived, their worlds have kept spinning.
12:31
But they’re talking to me, a total stranger,
12:34
about the person they love who has died,
12:36
because these are the experiences
12:39
that mark us and make us just as much as the joyful ones.
12:45
And just as permanently.
12:48
Long after you get your last sympathy card
12:51
or your last hot dish.
12:53
Like, we don’t look at the people around us
12:55
experiencing life’s joys and wonders and tell them to “move on,” do we?
13:00
We don’t send a card that’s like, “Congratulations on your beautiful baby,”
13:03
and then, five years later, think like, “Another birthday party? Get over it.”
13:07
(Laughter)
13:09
Yeah, we get it, he’s five.
13:10
(Laughter)
13:12
Wow.
13:13
(Laughter)
13:16
But grief is kind of one of those things,
13:18
like, falling in love or having a baby or watching “The Wire” on HBO,
13:21
where you don’t get it until you get it, until you do it.
13:27
And once you do it, once it’s your love or your baby,
13:32
once it’s your grief and your front row at the funeral,
13:37
you get it.
13:39
You understand what you’re experiencing is not a moment in time,
13:43
it’s not a bone that will reset,
13:45
but that you’ve been touched by something chronic.
13:48
Something incurable.
13:50
It’s not fatal, but sometimes grief feels like it could be.
13:55
And if we can’t prevent it in one another,
13:58
what can we do?
14:02
What can we do other than try to remind one another
14:06
that some things can’t be fixed,
14:10
and not all wounds are meant to heal?
14:14
We need each other to remember,
14:17
to help each other remember,
14:19
that grief is this multitasking emotion.
14:22
That you can and will be sad, and happy; you’ll be grieving, and able to love
14:28
in the same year or week, the same breath.
14:32
We need to remember that a grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again.
14:39
If they’re lucky, they’ll even find love again.
14:43
But yes, absolutely, they’re going to move forward.
14:48
But that doesn’t mean that they’ve moved on.
14:52
Thank you.
14:53
(Applause)

Resources

  1. World Health Organization. (2017). Depression and other common mental disorders: global health estimates (No. WHO/MSD/MER/2017.2). World Health Organization.
  2. Boelen, P. A., & Prigerson, H. G. (2007). The influence of symptoms of prolonged grief disorder, depression, and anxiety on quality of life among bereaved adults. European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience, 257(8), 444-452.Retrieved on May 18, 2019
  3. Maciejewski, P. K., Maercker, A., Boelen, P. A., &Prigerson, H. G. (2016). “Prolonged grief disorder” and “persistent complex bereavement disorder”, but not “complicated grief”, are one and the same diagnostic entity: an analysis of data from the Yale Bereavement Study. World Psychiatry, 15(3), 266-275.Retrieved on May 18, 2019
  4. Jacobs, S. (2016). Traumatic grief: Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Routledge.Retrieved on May 18, 2019
  5. Jordan, A. H., &Litz, B. T. (2014). Prolonged grief disorder: Diagnostic, assessment, and treatment considerations. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45(3), 180.Retrieved on May 18, 2019
  6. Boelen, P. A., van de Schoot, R., van den Hout, M. A., de Keijser, J., & van den Bout, J. (2010). Prolonged grief disorder, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder are distinguishable syndromes. Journal of affective disorders, 125(1-3), 374-378.Retrieved on May 18, 2019
  7. Tsai, W. I., Kuo, S. C., Wen, F. H., Prigerson, H. G., & Tang, S. T. (2018). Prolonged grief disorder and depression are distinct for caregivers across their first bereavement year. Psycho‐oncology, 27(3), 1027-1034.Retrieved on May 18, 2019
  8. Prigerson, H. G., Horowitz, M. J., Jacobs, S. C., Parkes, C. M., Aslan, M., Goodkin, K., … &Bonanno, G. (2009). Prolonged grief disorder: Psychometric validation of criteria proposed for DSM-V and ICD-11. PLoS medicine, 6(8), e1000121.Retrieved on May 18, 2019
  9. Lichtenthal, W. G., Maciejewski, P. K., Demirjian, C. C., Roberts, K. E., First, M. B., Kissane, D. W., … & Napolitano, S. (2018). Evidence of the clinical utility of a prolonged grief disorder diagnosis. World Psychiatry, 17(3), 364.Retrieved on May 18, 2019
  10. Goldstein, R. D., Petty, C. R., Morris, S. E., Human, M., Odendaal, H., Elliott, A., … &Prigerson, H. G. (2018). Pre-loss personal factors and prolonged grief disorder in bereaved mothers. Psychological medicine, 1-9.Retrieved on May 18, 2019

This article brought to you by CNV Detox