At some point we will all have to deal with grief over the loss of a loved one. This immensely difficult time can be made worse by the fear of death that our society perpetuates. Most of us have grown up in a world where the mention of death is uncomfortable, anti-aging products are everywhere, and hospice-palliative care is far less common than it should be. The grieving process and how to cope with someone’s death are not often talked about, but should be.
Most people have briefly come into contact with Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief. This theory outlines emotional stages that people generally progress through while grieving. The stages are: denial (this can’t be happening), anger (why is this happening?), bargaining(praying, wishing), depression (too sad to do anything), and acceptance (at peace with what happened). However, Kübler-Ross said herself that people do not necessarily go through the stages in order, or even go through all of them to be able to heal. These five emotions are common during the grief process, but it’s also normal to feel shock, sadness, guilt, fear, as well as physical symptoms such as aches, pains, fatigue, and nausea.
Everyone will grieve differently depending on the circumstances of the loss, religiosity, personality, coping style, and experience. There is no normal when it comes to grieving. As well, it is important to know that denying or ignoring these feelings will only make the grieving process more difficult and prolonged. Unresolved grief can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and general health problems. Many people unfortunately believe that grieving is weak when it is actually a normal and necessary process.
One of the most essential parts of the grieving process is seeking social support from family, friends, and even a counsellor or therapist. Having the support of others has been shown to help people heal faster and feel better in a variety of situations, including the grieving process. The presence of others during this time can make the process far easier than dealing with it alone. When dealing with grief, emotional and physical energy is easily depleted and having emotional and practical support available from others can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to accept help from others.
For anyone that has a friend dealing with the death of a loved one, it can be difficult to know what should be said or done. If there is anything that should not be said, it is “I know how you feel”. This belittles the gravity of what the person is experiencing and will not make them feel better. There are different types of support you can offer, such as emotional support which involves providing comfort, reassurance, and love. As well, there is instrumental or tangible support which consists of direct assistance in terms of money, chores, or food. Finally, informational support involves providing advice, suggestions, and feedback. This last type of support can be difficult to provide and may be best coming from a therapist or counsellor. If you are grieving or know someone who is, resources are available at the Wellness Centre on the ground floor of the Wallace McCain Student Centre. The grieving process is difficult but you don’t have to go through it alone.