Grief is a powerful emotion. It is painful and exhausting. Therefore, it sometimes seems easier to avoid confronting these feelings. However, this approach is not a viable long-term solution. Buried grief can manifest itself later as physical or emotional illness. Working through your sorrow and allowing yourself to express your feelings will help you to heal.
"Grief work" includes the stages a mourner needs to complete before resuming daily life. These processes include separating from the person who died, readjusting to a world without him or her, and forming new relationships. To separate from the person who died, a person must find another way to redirect the emotional energy that was given to the loved one. This does not mean the deceased was not loved or should be forgotten, but that the mourner needs to turn to others for emotional satisfaction. The mourner's roles, identity, and skills may need to change to readjust to living in a world without the person who died. The bereaved needs to redirect the emotional energy that was once given to the deceased to other people or activities.
It is important not to neglect yourself while grieving. Try to eat regular, healthy meals. If meal preparation is too difficult, try eating several smaller snacks throughout the day.
Grieving is extremely tiring, both physically and emotionally. The grief one is feeling is not just for the person who died, but also for the unfulfilled wishes and plans with the person. Death often reminds people of past losses or separations. Mourning may be described as having the following three phases:
* The urge to bring back the person who died * Disorganization and sadness * Reorganization
Depression shares common features with grief, but can completely take over the way you think and feel.
Symptoms of depression include:
* A sad or "empty" mood that will not go away or lighten * Persistent feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness * A negative preoccupation with self
Depression in older people has been linked to death from suicide, heart attack, and other causes. Much can be done to ameliorate severe symptoms through formal treatment or through support-group participation. If you feel that you or someone you know is having difficulty in coping with their loss, seek professional help. A family physician can often help, or grief counseling or therapy may be appropriate.
Grief counseling helps mourners with normal grief reactions work through the tasks of grieving. Grief counseling can be provided by professionally trained people or in self-help groups where bereaved people help each other. All of these services may be available in individual or group settings.
The goals of grief counseling include:
* Describing normal grieving and encouraging the bereaved to accept the loss by talking about it * Helping the bereaved to identify and express feelings related to the loss (for example, anger, guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and sadness) * Helping the bereaved to separate emotionally from the deceased, as well as to make decisions and live alone * Helping the bereaved to understand his or her methods of coping * Describing normal grieving and the differences in grieving among individuals * Providing continuous support * Providing support at important times, such as birthdays and anniversaries * Identifying coping problems the bereaved may have, and making recommendations for professional grief therapy, if necessary
Grief therapy is used with people who have more serious grief reactions. The goal of grief therapy is to identify and solve problems the mourner may have in separating from the person who died. When separation difficulties occur, they may appear as physical or behavioral problems, delayed or extreme mourning, conflicted or extended grief, or unexpected mourning.
In grief therapy, the mourner talks about the deceased and tries to recognize whether he or she is experiencing an expected amount of emotion about the death. Grief therapy may allow the mourner to see that anger, guilt, or other negative or uncomfortable feelings can exist at the same time as more positive feelings about the person who died.
Humans tend to make strong bonds of affection or attachment with others. When these bonds are broken, as in death, a strong emotional reaction occurs. After a loss, a person must accomplish certain tasks to complete the process of grief. These basic tasks of mourning include accepting that the loss happened, living with and feeling the physical and emotional pain of grief, adjusting to life without the loved one, and emotionally separating from the loved one and going on without him. It is important that these tasks are completed before mourning can end.
In grief therapy six tasks can be used to help a mourner work through her grief:
1. Develop the ability to experience, express, and adjust to painful grief-related changes 2. Find effective ways to cope 3. Establish a continuing relationship with the person who died 4. Stay healthy and keep functioning 5. Reestablish relationships, and understand that others may have difficulty empathizing with the grief he is experiencing 6. Develop a healthy image of herself and the world
Complications in grief may come about due to unresolved grief from earlier losses. The grief for these earlier losses must be managed to handle the current grief. Grief therapy includes dealing with blockages to the mourning process, identifying any unfinished business with the deceased and identifying other losses that result from the death. The bereaved must see that the loss is final and to picture life after the mourning period.
Grief therapy may be available as individual or group therapy. A contract is set up with the individual that establishes the time limit of the therapy, the fees, the goals, and the focus of the therapy.
Complicated grief reactions require more complex therapies than uncomplicated grief reactions. Adjustment disorders (especially depressed and anxious mood or disturbed emotions and behavior), major depression, substance abuse, and even post-traumatic stress disorder are some of the common problems of complicated bereavement. Complicated grief is identified by the extended duration of the symptoms, the disruption to daily life caused by the symptoms or by the intensity of the symptoms (for example, intense suicidal thoughts or acts).
Complicated or unresolved grief may appear as a complete absence of grief and mourning, an ongoing inability to experience normal grief reactions, delayed grief, conflicted grief, or chronic grief. Factors that contribute to the chance that one may experience complicated grief include the suddenness of the death, the gender of the person in mourning, and the relationship to the deceased (for example, an i
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