Friday, April 25, 2014

Navigating the Challenges of Losing Someone You Love

Strategies which can be useful in dealing with grief.
by Natasha Nizel

Losing someone close to you is one of the most challenging situations one has to face. Death is a common factor in our lives, yet we find it to be the most difficult concept to understand simply because of our refusal to accept and thereby allow ourselves to let go.

We have all experienced, or are yet to experience, the loss of a loved one. Such a loss has the potential to cause significant emotional distress, and grief can often be overwhelming. Acceptance of the loss of a loved one varies in terms of time. Grief is not easily managed over a short period of time, but may span over several months or years, and has the potential to lead to anxiety attacks and depression.

I too have lost a loved one with the passing of my sister. Given that I had viewed her as being the pillar of my strength, losing her felt as though my world had been shattered. I am still in the process of grieving, after having lost her six months ago. Months before today I was never able to accept her passing, I felt as though if I sat in her room she would jump out of the closet and tell me that it was all just a joke. It became so bad that I began to isolate myself. My process of dealing with her loss bred negativity as I began to isolate myself, became temperamental, and pushed people away. I failed to discuss her passing and could not come to terms with the reality.

The emotions I experienced are said to be a part of the five stages of grieving, which are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance as conceptualized by grief pioneer Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her landmark study, On Death and Dying.

Grief may be dealt with in various methods. These methods are subject to personal preference and depend on one's emotional state. One is required to invest time in finding a method which best suits him or her. The following steps offer a guide to dealing with this difficult time in life.

Firstly, understand that there is no correct way of grieving. Furthermore, grieving is not a process to be completed over a single day.  Understand that it takes time and patience to come to terms with the passing of a loved. You, as an individual, must come to terms with accepting and learning to live without your loved one who has passed on.

If you are like most people and do not want to have any form of conversation with people about the passing of your loved one, remember that this step is vital in moving through the stages of grief. Communication is key; talking to someone that you feel comfortable with may help. Telling people or a person how you feel may help you grasp what it is you are going through. This will not only release the stress you are feeling but will also help you work through the emotions.

Joining a grief group may help you as this is also seen as a form of counselling. Talking to people who may share similar experiences to what you are going through may help as you can listen to how they deal with their grief and maybe receive helpful advice from them. Support groups are created to help you deal with your struggles, make you realise that you are not alone and help you accept. Research grief groups around your area to find one near you.

Losing a loved one is hard. Research indicates that tears serve as emotional painkillers, as they ease the tension, hopelessness and built-up anger which surround challenges. Dr. Mckissock states that “there is also some evidence crying may be a way of ridding the body of substances that would otherwise build up andaffect our mood and well-being”. If an individual is kept from crying or tends to keep their emotions inside and not allow themselves to express their emotions, this may result in the individual being depressed. Allow yourself to cry if you feel you must. People differ with the ways they dea  with emotional stress, and you might not find crying to be helpful, but if you feel the need to release the emotions through tears, don’t try to stop yourself.

Expressing yourself on a piece of paper can relieve stress. Studies have shown that expressive writing helps with post-traumatic stress and depression. Writing can be a means of expression as you write down all your emotions and frustrations, which helps with the healing process and being able to deal with situations that may cross your path in the future.

Understand that death is a sensitive issue which may lead to people to act irrationally and irresponsibly, and to saying things that they do not mean. Try be there for someone who is currently grieving. If you do not know what to say or do, silence is very effective as a means of support and usually that is what people need: someone to listen and hold them without saying a word.