Bereavement is the process of recovering from the loss of someone close to us whereas grief is our response to any form of loss be it a person, relationship, our health or a life dream we have held dear. In both cases, feelings of anger, guilt and deep sadness may be experienced as one struggles to come to terms with the change and adapt to the new way of life. Life may appear empty and meaningless. These feelings may emerge even in the case of the loss of a painful relationship. Grieving behaviours may range from crying to laughing, from over-activity to total stillness. Reactions vary from individual to individual and depend on a number of facts such as backgrounds, support network, resources and nature of loss. The major challenge is the adjusting to a new life marked by an absence.
The process of grieving takes its own course and people tend to recover and resume normal activities within 6 months to a year. Grief may however be complicated by issues such as depression and dependency and symptoms may continue into the second year without noticeable improvement. Perhaps you are now finding it difficult to return to routine activities? Prolonged symptoms of grief include the following:
- Deep sadness
- Preoccupation with the loss
- Yearning/Longing for the lost person or life
- A sense of meaninglessness/emptiness
- Difficulty recalling any happy memories
- Avoiding reminders
- Loss of interest in engaging in personal interests or planning
- Anger or bitterness
There are a number of models of grief. One such model is that of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1969) who identified 5 steps in the grieving process moving from ‘denial’ through ‘anger, bargaining and depression’ and finally to ‘acceptance’. Many people experience 2 to 3 stages in their grieving process, others experience all 5 and some continue to relive certain stages throughout their lives.
In psychotherapy, distressing feelings, thoughts, behaviours and worries are worked through and strategies for dealing with the stressors related to the loss and for managing associated symptoms are developed. Treatment is tailored to meet each individual’s needs and focus is placed on the areas creating most disturbance.