Grief is a response to any loss and is a human experience we all have in common. However, grief is often unrecognized as part of the human experience. Grief is an individual and unique journey that that should be intentional in order to heal.
Individuals respond differently to loss depending on relationship dynamics, circumstances surrounding the passing, support systems, presence of illness, cultural beliefs, religion and past experiences.
Although grief is unique to an individual, there are physiological phases of grief outlined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. After learning about a loved one’s death, denial, shock or even a numbness may set in.
Denial offers one’s body emotional protection after initially hearing the information so that he or she is not so overwhelmed. After denial, anger or an outpouring of emotions with mental and expressive pain occur. Life may feel illogical at this time, but it is important for an individual to work through these feelings in a healthy manner.
After anger, one may find themselves bargaining with a higher power, even pleading for the reversal of the situation or seeking a way out.
Depression is stage four in the Kubler-Ross model. An individual may have an overwhelming need to be alone with his or her thoughts and/or have feelings of extreme sadness and emptiness.
Acceptance is the fifth stage of grief. Acceptance does not mean the individual is no longer sad or angry but rather can see a light and a way to move forward.
Grief can be an exhausting roller coaster, going in and out of phases or overlapping, particularly at significant times. For example, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, the birth of a child and the holidays. Grieving during these times and the holidays can be difficult. Memories of past traditions contrast with present feelings of sadness, emptiness and even anxiety.
Remember that everyone grieves differently, your grief is your own, but you can also grieve with others. Individuals should be respectful and patient while also setting boundaries such as saying “no” or “later” if the situation becomes too overwhelming. Allow children and adolescents space to grieve in their way and be prepared for any reaction they may have. Be patient as they need to grieve as well.
Grief is a life experience that creates compassion and kindness, allowing one to remember who and what they have loved.
“You will never get over the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and rebuild yourself. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.”- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler.
Gina Bailey, BSN, RN, Nurse Liaison Bridge Home Health & Hospice