The Art of Grieving
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal”.
The death of a loved one could be life’s way of teaching you one of its harshest lessons. It leaves you ensconced in grief and life enters a quintessential dimension, never treaded before.
It would be rather surprising if one has not had the occasion of meeting grief in the eye. They say “Time is the greatest healer”. Yes!!! Most certainly it is, but it heals and scars at the same time. A scar, which could be the constant reminder of what your loss has been. A scar which takes you on a guilt trip every time you want to restore the normal.
It’s been ten years since my dad passed. But the chronology of the events the day he passed remains etched firmly in my mind. As I stood there in the hospital lobby, blinded with tears, an unknown stranger walked up to me and said, “I know, you were not ready for him to leave you. Why don’t you write a letter to him everyday’?” At that instant, I realized that it could be my only possible means of communication with my lifeless father.
Coping with a loss is not easy. It could redefine life and change the belief systems your being was founded on. It could also mean unearthing the never used urns of strength and resilience which could define the new “you”. Yet, there are sad instances of individuals who could never gather the pieces together ever again.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist with a Swiss American background, in her book “On Death and Dying” talked about the five stages of coping with grief. Kubler-Ross mainly worked with terminally ill patients and based her research on them. However, the Kubler –Ross model would be equally applicable to coping with any kind of “catastrophic personal loss”.
This model is also referred to as the Kubler Ross grief cycle and its stages are often referred to as DABDA which includes the following:
Watch the video below to have an idea of the Kubler-Ross model to begin with.
The 5 stages of the model are as follows:
Denial: The first step would be denying the fact that it could happen to the said individual. The denial originates from being numb with shock and the impending insecurities one faces with this sudden occurrence. The only pertinent question would be, “How could this happen to me?”. It is a temporary feeling and soon gives to a feeling of angst and animosity.
Anger: In the second stage, the feelings of rage and anger start to surface. The individual questions himself “How can this happen to me?” or rather “Who is to blame for this?”. The anger is mostly founded on the question “Why me?”.
Bargaining: The next step would be bargain with one’s own conscience. The question would be “What could I have done to not let this happen to me?”. One understands the current scenario but cannot help contemplate a hypothetical situation where anything on his part could have been done to avoid the misfortune.
Depression: The fourth stage entails the resignation to fate. The individual is filled with hopelessness and despair and finds himself in a depression.
Acceptance: The mind has its own rationale and requires its own time to heal. The last stage is that of acceptance. It is the beginning of the healing process. One knows that things are not going to be the same. Yet the mind finds an order amongst the chaos. One gets used to a new routine and starts to assimilate and comprehend the vicissitudes of life that could be brought about by the death of a loved one.
Kubler Ross emphasized that the above steps could follow a random order and could even co-exist. One may not experience all the stages necessarily. However, women were more likely to experience all the stages.
Grief management Techniques
Take one day at a time
Your sorrows could be overwhelming. With past memories flooding your mind and imminent loneliness haunting you, it could be a formidable feeling to reckon with. Take one day at a time. Remember, if sorrows have the ability to break you, they also have the potential to make you and help you emerge stronger. The relationship you had with the person who died can be the source of your strength.
Accept your emotional support system
To be in denial is a part of the deal. Sometimes one is not even ready to empathize with oneself, let alone anyone else doing it. Confiding in whatever support system you have helps you have a reality check and face your loss. The recovery from the initial blow is made easier when you have friends and family stepping up to the occasion. Talk about your grief; It can help you vent out all the pent up insecurities and feelings of despair. It could help you not have a clouded judgment and see the road ahead clearly. This is especially important, because a lot of unfinished earthly errands could be left behind by the departed which needs to be attended to.
Get your faith back
The vulnerability brought about by a loss can only often be best dealt with by going back to the founding tenets of your faith or religion. As they say, the soul is indestructible. It could be the greatest solace for the bereaved. For someone who has lost a dear one, it could be comforting and reassuring to imagine that there is life after death. A lot has been written on communicating with the dead. Right or wrong, truth or myth – it could mean a lot for someone grieving a father, a spouse, a friend or a child. To come to terms with the fact that a person of bones and flesh has vanished into thin air all of a sudden, never to be seen again can be difficult. This experience can be extremely surreal. The loss may make you question your faith and religion, the existence of the Almighty. It is normal and very often a part of the mourning process. With time, your faith will help you realize that death is a supreme truth as much as being born is.
The funeral is more than just taking care of the last rites of the departed. It is a part of the healing process. It allows you to bid farewell which is figurative enough to initiate the process of closure. It can be helpful in giving vent to ones sorrow externally as it is the last opportunity to be with one’s loved one. Not having a ceremony could lead to further repression of pain and sorrow within oneself.
Understand your emotional and physical limitations when you are grieving
One may not be his usual self during this time. One may suffer from lack of appetite, insomnia, poor memory etc. These are the body’s ways of coping up with the stress and trauma. One may become slow, less agile and aware and emotionally vulnerable. But it is a temporary condition and is reflective of the mental unrest one is going through. Try to eat your meals, drink enough water and get sufficient rest. This will help you to overcome fatigue and tiredness and regain your physical strength back.
Be involved in a support group
Do not underestimate the importance of having a support system. No two individuals react the same way. But finding people who have been through personal tragedies and have been successful in getting back into the groove of normal life once again can inspire. You need a group of friends, relatives or like minded individuals who can encourage you in every possible way.
Treasure your memories but do not cling to them
Treasure your memories in your heart, mind and soul. But do not cling to the belongings of the dead. It does not allow you to move on. A new tomorrow is lurking in the corner. Prepare yourself to move on and embrace it.
Look for answers within yourself
You will have your own way of communicating with your loved one who has crossed over to the other side. You will feel the presence of your loved one within your subconscious all through the healing process. You will find the answers to all your questions within yourself and you do not need to be a psychic to feel it.
Above and beyond, if you are unable to face the loss by yourself and need help, know that there are state certified and licensed grief and bereavement counsellors who can come to your aid.