Grief is an emotion we experience in the face of loss when our reality no longer matches our perceived picture of happiness.
While grief is most commonly associated with bereavement (mourning a loved one after their death), you can experience grief in a number of situations.
- Loss of a loved one to death
- Break-up of a romance or friendship
- Loss or death of a pet
- Loss of a job
- Moving to a different city
- Financial loss
- Diagnosis of an illness
- When a loved one receives a diagnosis of an illness
Some people may feel that some of these situations are not that serious, but they may feel these losses intensely and experience the chaos of grief.
What are the different stages of grief?
There are five stages of grief that we go through. These stages help us understand what has changed and how we can adapt to the new situation.
“This cannot be happening”
In the first stage, you are likely to be in denial of what has happened. You may not be able to accept the situation and may tell yourself that you are fine.
“How could this happen to me?”
In the second stage, you are likely to feel anger. You could be angry with yourself, with another person depending on the situation or just angry with the circumstances.
“If only I had more time with them”
In this stage, you are coming to terms with what has happened and are trying to find a way to cope with it. You bargain about your life situation with the help of faith.
“This is really happening”
The significance of what has happened finally hits you in this stage when you truly begin to understand the magnitude of the loss you have suffered.
“I should try to move on”
In the final stage of grief, you have come to terms with your loss and are now looking forward. You try to find ways to overcome or cope with the situation.
It is important to remember that experience of loss is complex, and everyone grieves differently. While people do go through the stages of grief - some may skip a few stages; some may overcome them quickly - there is no set time limit or method of grieving.
How to cope with grief
Grief is your body’s way of dealing with the pain of a loss and a necessary process for your health to be restored. While you are grieving, you may long for a different outcome and may constantly think about what you have lost. You will experience a range of emotions:
It is important to be mindful of these emotions and let them pass. While moving on with your life is important, it is essential to give yourself time and space to grieve completely.
Grief, when left unexpressed can manifest in the form of emotional and physical distress. Suppressing your emotions or trying to get over the grief quickly can make it harder for you to come to terms with your loss and may even lead to depression.
When a loved one is grieving
One of the things that people generally struggle with is how to respond to someone’s grief. They worry about causing more pain by talking to them and might distance themselves altogether. On the other hand, some people push the person to overcome their grief quickly and move on with their life. Neither of these approaches are helpful.
Do not make light of grief
In some situations, we may not readily understand why someone is grieving. For example, if a friend loses their pet and you do not have a pet, you may not understand their loss. It is important to validate one’s grief and let them grieve regardless of your thoughts on the situation.
Do not judge someone’s grief
A loss can be the result of a decision made by the person due to a bad situation. For example, a person who is getting out of an unhappy relationship may still feel a sense of loss. Do not judge someone for experiencing grief in these situations as it is a natural part of accepting change.
Be mindful of the things you say
How we phrase our concerns are crucial at this point. Here are some ways you can talk to someone who is grieving without adding to their emotional distress:
Empathize and reflect: Instead of saying “You need to get over it” or “It's okay,” you could say “I can imagine this is a very difficult time for you.”
Make a suggestion in an open-ended manner: Instead of saying, “I think you should (...),” you could say “Would you like to consider (...)?”
Be a good listener
The best thing you can do for someone who is grieving is lend an ear. Let them express the complicated emotions they are dealing with. Listen to them non-judgmentally without offering any advice; instead offer empathy. If they are hesitant to talk, let them know that when they do feel like talking, you will be there to listen to them.