What is grief?
Grief is a natural and normal emotion triggered by the loss of a loved one or something one regards as precious. There is no “right way” to grieve, no accepted model and no way of predicting how long the period of grieving will or should last.
In recent decades many people have been troubled by the fact that they did not go through the “five stages of grief” popularized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s. Science now accepts that this hypothesis is not supported by fact and that many people experience completely different emotions and in many — perhaps even the majority of cases — react with resilience and no obvious symptoms of grief.
A more recent controversy has arisen with criticism that the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) “medicalises” normal grief by encouraging clinicians to diagnose major depression in patients suffering mild depressive symptoms after two weeks of grieving.
Strategies to help manage grief
Loneliness and isolation is a common feeling when someone experiences a loss, but it can be improved by using those around you as an emotional support. Speak to family and friends or a psychologist about your loss and use those willing to assist you with a shoulder to cry on or other forms of support.
Remember to take time for yourself when grieving, and do things that make you happy, such as a long hot bath or going for a walk. Try to avoid excessive use of potentially addictive substances during the grieving process, as they can cause you to suppress your feelings, or act out in anger.
Learn to sit with the feelings and actively deal with them, rather than trying to push them away or ignore them. Acknowledge that you are feeling pain, anger or depression, and also acknowledge that it won’t be this bad forever. When you are ready, you will move on.
When to seek professional assistance
When grief doesn’t go away, emotions like anger, depression or disbelief can stick with you. You may find that your ability to go about your daily routine is hampered by intrusive thoughts of the lost loved one, or you have not yet properly accepted the loss yet. When this happens, it may be time to speak to a professional about your experience.
How Psychology Melbourne can help
Psychology Melbourne has a team of experienced grief counselors, who can help you come to terms with your grief and loss, and assist you with moving forward in a safe environment.