We thought long about whether we should write about it on our blog, but we decided that we should. The topic of death is very difficult, but very important to the psychological state of a person. Many people lose their self-control and self-confidence because of such an unexpected, sudden tragedy with a near and dear one as a death.
The great writer Erich Maria Remarque once said: “The grief becomes real and close only when it touches you personally”. And it really is. We seldom think about the experiences of others until we are confronted with them ourselves. And when we do, we are simply not ready to deal with it.
The death of a loved one is always a deep shock; the shock that leaves scars on the soul for life. A person in a moment of grief feels a loss of emotional connection, feels a sense of unfulfilled duty and guilt. How to cope with the experiences, emotions, feelings and learn to move on? How to cope with the death of a loved one? How and how to help someone who is experiencing the pain of loss? Read on in our article.
Attitudes of modern society toward death
It varies. Some say: “Don’t cry all the time”, “Hang in there”, “He/she is better off there”, “We’ll all be there”. All of these consolations have to be heard by the grieving person.
There are times when the grieving person is coping with the death of a loved one alone. And this happens not because friends and colleagues are cruel and indifferent, but simply because many people are afraid of death and other people’s grief. Many want to help, but they don’t know how or with what. They are afraid to be tactless, can not find the right words. And the secret lies not in healing and comforting words, but in the ability to listen and let you know that you are there.
Modern society shuns everything connected with death: they avoid talking, refuse to mourn, try not to show their grief. Children are afraid to answer their questions about death. There is a belief in society that too long a display of grief is a sign of mental illness or disorder. Tears are regarded as a nervous breakdown.
Very often a person is alone in his grief: the phone does not ring in his house, people avoid him, he/she is isolated from society. Why does this happen? Because we don’t know how to help, how to comfort, what to say. We are not only afraid of death, but also of grieving.
Of course, communicating with a grieving person is not exactly psychologically comfortable, there are a lot of inconveniences. A person may cry, must be comforted, but how? What to talk to him/her about? What if you hurt man even more? Many of us can’t find the answers to these questions, we pull away and bide our time until the person himself copes with his loss and comes to his senses. Only spiritually strong people stay close to the grieving person at such a tragic moment.
The rituals of funerals and grieving are lost in society today and are perceived as a relic of the past, because we are “civilized, intelligent, and cultured people”. But it was these ancient traditions that helped us to properly endure the pain of loss. For example, the mourners, who were invited to the coffin to repeat certain verbal formulas, brought tears to those relatives who were in a daze or in shock.
Nowadays, however, it is considered wrong to cry at the coffin. There is a notion that tears cause much distress to the soul of the deceased, that they drown him in the other world. For this reason it is customary to cry as little as possible and to restrain oneself. The rejection of mourning and people’s modern attitudes toward death have very dangerous consequences for the psyche.
The grief is individual
All people experience the pain of loss in different ways. Therefore, the division of grief into stages (periods) adopted in psychology is conditional and coincides with the dates of commemoration of the deceased in many world religions.
Many factors influence the stages a person goes through: gender, age, health, emotionality, upbringing, emotional connection with the deceased. But there are general rules that one must know in order to assess the mental and emotional state of a person who is going through grief. It is necessary to have an idea of how to copr the death of the closest person, how and how to help the one who has the misfortune.
The following rules and patterns apply to children who are going through the pain of loss. But they need to be treated with even more care and caution. So, a loved one has died, how to cope with grief? To answer this question, it is necessary to understand what happens to grievers at this time.
The 8 stages of grief
How then to help yourself and others to cope the death of a loved one? Tips, ways in the initial period boils down to one thing – to believe in what happened, to let the feelings come out, to talk about them with those who are willing to listen, to cry. Usually the period lasts about 30-40 days. If it drags on for months or even years, you should see a psychologist or priest.
Let’s look at what cycles grief goes through.
1. Shock and dismay
The first feeling a person who unexpectedly loses a relative feels is a lack of understanding of what happened and how it happened. A single thought runs through his head: “It’s impossible. It can’t be!”.
The first reaction he experiences is shock. In fact, it is a protective reaction of our body, a kind of “psychological anesthesia”. Shock comes in two forms:
- Stupor, inability to perform habitual actions;
- Excessive activity, agitation, shouting, fussiness.
And these states can alternate. The person cannot believe in what happened, he or she sometimes starts to avoid the truth.
In many cases, there is an aversion to what has happened. Then the person:
- Looking for the face of the deceased in the crowd of people;
- Talks to him;
- Hears the voice of the deceased, feels his presence;
- Plans some joint events with him;
- Keeps intact his belongings, clothing and everything connected with him.
If a person denies the fact of loss for a long time, a mechanism of self-deception kicks in. He does not accept the loss, because he is not ready to experience unbearable mental pain.
Psychologists distinguish certain stages of grief that are experienced by all people who have lost loved ones. They do not go one after another in strict sequence, each person has his or her own psychological periods. Understanding what is happening to the bereaved will help you cope with grief more easily.
The first reaction (shock and dismay) has already been discussed, here are the subsequent stages of grief:
2. Denial of what’s happening
“It couldn’t have happened” – the main reason for this reaction is fear. A person is afraid of what happened, what will happen next. The mind denies reality, the person convinces himself that nothing has happened.
Outwardly, the grieving person looks dazed or fidgety, actively organizing the funeral. But this does not mean that he is easily over the loss, just that he has not yet fully realized what happened.
A person who is in a daze does not need to be shielded from the worries and hassles of a funeral. Paperwork, organizing funeral and memorial services, ordering funeral services force you to communicate with people and help you get out of a state of shock.
It happens that in a state of denial, a person ceases to adequately perceive reality and the world. Such a reaction is short-lived, but it is necessary to bring him out of such a state. To do this, it is necessary to talk to him or her, call him or her by name all the time, not to leave him or her alone, to distract him or her from his or her thoughts.
But it is not necessary to comfort and reassure, as it will not help. This stage is not long. It is like a preparatory one, a person is mentally preparing himself for the fact that there is no longer a loved one. And as soon as he realizes what happened, he passes to the next stage.
3. Rage, resentment, anger
These feelings take over the person completely. He is angry at the world around him, for him there are no good people, everything is wrong. He is internally convinced that everything that is happening around him is an injustice.
The strength of these emotions depends on the person. As soon as the feeling of anger passes, it is immediately replaced by the next stage of grief.
4. Feelings of guilt
The mourner often remembers the deceased, moments of communication with him or her, and begins to realize that he or she paid little attention, spoke harshly or rudely, did not ask for forgiveness, did not say that he or she loved, and so on.
The thought comes to mind: “Did I do everything I could to prevent this death?”. Sometimes that feeling stays with a person for the rest of their life.
This stage is very difficult for people who are used to keeping all their feelings to themselves and not showing them to others. They exhaust them from the inside, the person loses hope that life will become normal.
Sometimes the grieving person refuses to be sympathized with, he has a gloomy mood, he does not contact other people, all the time he tries to suppress his feelings, but this makes him even more miserable. Depression after the loss of a loved one leaves an imprint on all areas of life.
6. Acceptance of what happened
Over time, the person comes to terms with what has happened. He begins to come to his senses, and life more or less gets better. Every day his condition improves, and resentment and depression will weaken.
7. The revival stage
During this period, the person is poorly communicative, is silent a lot and for a long time, often withdraws into himself. The period is long enough and can last up to several years.
8. Organizing life without a loved one
After all the stages in the life of a person who has gone through grief, many things change, and of course, he himself becomes different.
Many people try to change their previous way of life, find new friends, change their job, sometimes their place of residence. A person builds a new model of life.
Symptoms of “normal” grief
Renowned psychologist Erich Lindemann has identified the symptoms of “normal” grief, that is, the feeling that develops in every person upon the loss of a loved one. So, the symptoms:
- Physiological, that is, recurrent attacks of physical suffering: feeling of tightness in the chest, attacks of emptiness in the stomach, weakness, dry mouth, cramps in the throat;
- Behavioral symptoms are hurried or slowed pace of speech, inconsistency, stiffness, lack of interest in matters, irritability, insomnia, everything falls out of hand;
- Cognitive symptoms: confusion of thoughts, lack of confidence in oneself, difficulties with attention and concentration;
- Emotional symptoms: feelings of helplessness, loneliness, anxiety and guilt.
As for other symptoms and changes in a person’s behavior, they are considered “abnormal” and it is better to see a doctor.
A time of sorrow
All people grieve and take time to realize the loss of a loved one in different ways. But most often it happens in the following time frames:
- Shock and denial of loss last about 48 hours;
- During the first week, there is emotional exhaustion (there were funerals, funeral services, meetings etc);
- From 2 to 5 weeks, some people return to daily activities: work, school, normal life. But those closest to them begin to feel the loss most acutely. They have more acute feelings of longing, grief, and anger. This is a period of acute grief, which may drag on for a long time;
- From 3 months to a year of mourning, it is a period of helplessness. Some are caught up in depression, some need extra care;
- The anniversary is a very important event when there is a ritual ending of mourning. That is a service, a trip to the cemetery, and a commemoration. Relatives gather, and shared grief eases the grief of loved ones. This happens if one is not stuck. That is, if a person can not come to terms with the loss, can not go back to ordinary life, it’s like remained in their grief.
Can the pain and suffering be alleviated?
The loss of a loved one is one of life’s hardest and most serious challenges. Every adult has experienced loss in one way or another. It is foolish to advise a person in this situation to pull themselves together.
In the beginning it is very difficult to accept the loss, but there is an opportunity not to make your condition worse and try to cope with the stress. Unfortunately, there is no quick and universal way to cope the death of a loved one, but it is necessary to take all measures to ensure that this grief does not develop into a severe form of depression.
There are people who “hang out” in their difficult emotional state, cannot cope with grief on their own and do not know how to cope the death of a loved one. Psychology identifies signs that should alert those around you and make you immediately contact a specialist. This should be done if the grieving person:
- Constant obsessive thoughts about the futility and aimlessness of life;
- Purposeful avoidance of people;
- Constant thoughts about suicide or death;
- An inability to return to a familiar way of life over a long period of time;
- Delayed reactions, constant emotional breakdowns, inadequate actions, uncontrollable laughter or crying;
- Sleep disorders, severe weight loss or gain.
If there is any doubt or concern about a person who has recently experienced the death of a loved one, it is best to see a psychologist. He will help the grieving person understand himself and his emotions.
These are general recommendations on how to deal with tragedy. Here are some more tips from psychologists:
- You should not refuse the support of friends and others;
- It is necessary to take care of yourself and your physical condition;
- You need to let your feelings and emotions flow. You can try to express your feelings and emotions through creativity;
- Don’t set time limits for grief;
- Don’t suppress emotions, to cry out in grief;
- Distract yourself from those who are dear and loved, that is, the living.
Psychologists advise writing a letter to the deceased. In it you should say what you did not have time to do or report during his lifetime, to confess something. In general, pour everything on paper. You can write about how you miss this person and what you regret.
How to go on after your parents die?
The loss of a parent is always a great tragedy. The psychological bond that is established between relatives makes their loss a very difficult ordeal. How to cope the death of a loved one, a mother, a father? What to do when she or he is gone? How to cope with grief?
No matter how old we are, dealing with the loss of a parent is always difficult. We feel like they left too soon, but it will always be bad timing. Bereavement has to be accepted, we have to learn to live with it. Still long enough time in the mind we turn to the deceased father or mother, asking for their advice, but we have to learn to live without their support.
The death of a parent changes lives dramatically. In addition to bitterness, grief and loss, there is the feeling that life has collapsed into an abyss. How to cope the death of a loved one and come back to life:
- The fact of loss must be accepted. And the sooner it happens, the better. You have to understand that the person will never be with you again, that neither tears nor heartache will bring him back;
- You have to learn to live without a mother or father. Memory is a person’s greatest value, our deceased parents continue to live in it. Remembering them, one should not forget about oneself, one’s plans, deeds, aspirations;
- Gradually it is worth getting rid of difficult memories of death. They lead a person into depression. Psychologists advise to cry, you can go to a psychologist or priest. You can start a diary, the main thing – do not keep it all inside;
- If loneliness overcomes, you need to find someone who needs care and attention. You can get a pet. Their selfless love and vitality will help you overcome grief.
Unfortunately, there are no ready-made recipes on how to cope the death of a loved one that are appropriate for absolutely all people. The loss situations and the emotional connections are different for everyone. And everyone experiences grief differently.
To ease the pain a little, you can do something in memory of the deceased. Maybe he/she dreamed of doing something great, you can see it through to the end. You can do some charity work in his/her memory, dedicate some creation in honor.
It is important to keep the memory of the deceased, to remember them always with kind words and deeds.