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Sad young man in empty roomWhen a person loses a loved one, grief is inevitable. Even if the deceased was sick for weeks, months or even years and death was expected, the loss will be hard to deal with. However, there is no tried-and-true process for grieving. Every human being is different, and therefore, every person will grieve differently. Whether you are grieving yourself or looking to help someone who is, it is important to understand what grief is and what the symptoms are and how to handle them.

The Five Stages of Grief

Experts agree that the basic process of grieving involves five steps, although how a person handles each of the steps and how fast he or she transitions from one to the next varies.

  • Denial: The grief-stricken usually first experience denial, feeling disbelief at the fact that a loved one has passed.
  • Anger: The grieving person begins to feel angry at having lost someone and may look to place blame on others, even if he or she logically knows nothing could have been done.
  • Bargaining: Bargaining is often the part of the grieving process where a person will pray to God or find some other way to ask for their loved one back and in return, they will live a better life.
  • Depression: Depression is often the longest stage of the grieving process, sometimes lasting for years. Sadness, inability or unwillingness to socialize or go to work or school, and other depression symptoms take hold during this stage of the process.
  • Acceptance: This is the final stage of the grieving process. At this point, most people will still be sad from time to time, but they will be able to return to normal activities and even begin to feel happy again.

The Biggest Myths About Grief

There are some myths surrounding the grieving process, especially when it comes to how the grief-stricken feel they should act. Many people mistakenly believe they should ignore the pain to get it to go away faster, but others believe they aren't showing enough sadness because they don't cry. Still others feel they should be strong for everyone else and internalize their own sadness. Perhaps the biggest myth surrounding the process is that it typically lasts a year. In reality, there is no right or wrong amount of time to mourn the loss of someone, and no right or wrong way to mourn a loved one.

Symptoms of Grief

If you are seeking to help a friend or family member mourn the loss of a loved one, it is important to understand the symptoms of grief so that you can recognize them as necessary. Typically, a mourning person will feel deep loneliness, will often exhibit moodiness that may include extreme highs and lows, will feel worried about the future and possibly question his or her own mortality. Physical symptoms include nausea, being prone to illness, weight change, insomnia or fatigue, and aches and pains.

How to Cope

Everybody copes with loss in his or her own way, but it is important not to do it alone. The mourner should speak with friends and family members, talk to his or her pastor or other members of the church, join support groups or seek the help of a professional therapist or grief counselor. It is also important to look after physical health by sleeping, eating and attempting to exercise and go about daily activities when possible.

Grief will likely never completely go away, especially if the mourner lost a very close family member such as a parent or child. However, he or she will gradually feel better and can avoid regressing back into previous stages of grief by planning ahead for triggers. Anniversaries, birthdays and other significant dates should be spent doing something with friends or family who may help to memorialize the deceased.

Category: Loss

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