Grief is a form of love and, as such, can be the strongest emotions a person can experience. Though loss can be traumatic, grief is not a trauma syndrome. Nor is grief a one year series of emotional stages. Normal grief is a painful but healthy process of adaptation during which effort must be made to maintain mental and physical health.
Certainly, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance may well be some of the emotions that are triggered after a loss, but they are accompanied with many other emotions as well. Grief encompasses many other painful feelings, such as fear, guilt, regret, remorse, longing and nostalgia. Some individuals may even feel relief, depending on the circumstances. Others may feel happiness for their loved ones and anticipation of being reunited in the afterlife. Sometimes conflicting emotions are felt at the same time.
The death of a loved one is an obvious loss that triggers grief, but less obvious losses can occur as well. A change in a relationship due to breakup or relocation can also be a significant loss. Loss of a pet, pregnancy, job, home, health, sentimental item, future plan, or any significant loss can result in a need to grieve.
Grieving brings about adaptation. In general, the more adaptation one must to because of the loss, the more intense the grieving process will be. The impact the loss will have on the grief response depends on the quality of the relationship, timing, context, circumstances and consequences. Severity of the grief response is also influenced by personal factors, such as spiritual beliefs, social support, resources and coping habits.
Coping With Grief And Loss
Grief is an ongoing journey of emotions, reflection, coping behaviors, adaptation and growth. Overwhelming and confusing feelings are very painful at times and other stressors may make these feelings even more intense. An effort to maintain healthy coping habits must be made, including sleep, exercise, nutrition and time with supportive others. Maintaining healthy coping habits facilitates adaptation, acceptance, and personal growth.
Grieving individuals can use other strategies in addition to maintaining health that can lead to a renewed sense of meaning that offers purpose and direction to life, according to the American Psychological Association. Some such strategies include remembering and celebrating who or what was lost, verbalizing feelings about the loss, and helping others with the loss.
Those who lack healthy coping habits can fall into patterns of quick fixes and behaviors that are unhealthy, such as isolation, self-pity, overeating, drinking alcohol or using drugs. These unhealthy ways of coping only make things worse. Unhealthy habits only prolong the grieving process and lead to complicated grief.