Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Phases of Grief

Grief is the physical, emotional, and mental condition brought on by a loss, such as the death of someone you love. Grief is the body's natural ability to heal emotional injury. Grieving can be hard. Lack of understanding makes it harder. Grief is a personal process characterized by three phases:

Phase 1--Shock (Denial)
This begins with the news of the death, but the reality of the death may occur in a few minutes, a few days or even several months later. This phase "protects" the survivor from the emotional impact of the death. Common characteristics of this phase iclude a need to stay busy, confusion, an inability to express emotion, inability to function and an overwhelming sense that somthing is wrong without grasping the reality of the loss.

Phase 2--The Expression of Grief
Anger, bargaining, and/or depression may last for several days to several years. They are mental, physical and emotional manifestations that may come and go or appear in any combination.

  • Mental: Preoccupation of the death: how it happened, the person that died. Inabilities to focus, to remember or to be productive are mental expressions of grief. You may have paranoid or inconsistent thoughts. You may even want to make radical changes in all aspects of your life, but it is imprerative that you take time to think clearly and not make impuslive decisions that you may later regret.

  • Physical: Fatigue, weakness, insomnia, weight gain or loss, headaches, the tendency to catch stress-related illnesses, a sense of vulnerability, discomfort with too much activity or stimulation are all physical expressions of grief.

  • Emotional: Intense sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, depression, loneliness, confusion, helplessness, isolation and guilt are emotional expressions of grief. The inabilities to feel love or give love, compulsive behavior, thinking that you are "crazy" are often felt by those in grief.

Experiencing these symptoms is quite normal and in many ways are a necessary part of the healing process of grief. If you feel, however, that you are not able to handle your grief on your own, you may want to consider professional help.

Phase 3--Acceptance
You will know when you have reached this stage when you are able to recall memories of your deceased loved one fondly and pleasantly instead of painfully. Once acceptance has been reached, planning for the future becomes more realistic. A new and wiser you will have emerged.
The rate of acceptance often depends on your ability to feel and express your grief openly. Take time out from your usual standars of behavior. Surround yourself with people that you feel comfortable with, tell them how you feel and what you need from them. Feel and express your emtions. It is okay to cry, to laugh, or to be silent. Write things down about your feelings, your wishes, regrets and joys. Give yourself breaks from grieving to rest, have fun and be nurtured. Try to eat well. Try to get your sleep. Above all, give yourself time.

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