|The theme on the blog this month has focused on the topic of loss and grief (as chosen by a poll I conducted on Twitter - thank you to those who participated!). Understandably, loss and grief can be a difficult topic to read about and so, while I highly appreciate your time, if you have experienced a loss recently, or are experiencing a tough time, please be mindful of your own emotions and well-being as some of the information in the post (and series) may be tough to read while in the midst of grief.
The first post this month on the Bloggers Corner interviewed Connie, a blogger who has been personally impacted by loss and has transformed her grief into a passion for supporting others and helping to prevent suicide. It can be very difficult to share a story of loss, no matter how much time has passed, and I sincerely thank Connie for being able to share her story with us. I'm also looking forward to her achievements in the future as she pushes towards a national suicide prevention program.
In this post, we will explore the definition of grief and the symptoms associated with a response to loss. Next weeks post will highlight the impacts the experience of loss and bereavement including complicated grief, and the final post this month will focus on strategies and supports to process the difficult impacts of loss.
What is grief?
Before we explore the definition of grief, let's take a trip down memory lane into your minds eye of your very first experience of loss (please be mindful of your emotional well-being, it's okay to skip this part if you want)...
> What is the very first experience of loss that you can remember?
> Take a minute to think back.. did this moment happen in your adolescence, childhood or perhaps even earlier (if you can remember that far back)?
> What do you recall about this moment in your life.. can you remember any thoughts, feelings, or questions that came up for you during this experience?
> What else do you remember, any particular smells or physical sensations?
> Has this memory faded or is it still quite vivid in your mind?
My own first experience of loss happened to be the loss of my pet bunny rabbit named BunBun (yes, I know, awesome name, right!). He went missing one day and never returned. I remember this event in my minds eye as my 7 year old self, without having the understanding that I have now of what loss actually means; the finality of losing something so dear to you.
I can recall the questions that came to mind about what happened to BunBun and the consequences of not finding him ever again. I remember the rush of sadness when I found out that he may never return and the deep pit of despair to think that I had lost my very first best friend (I really loved animals back then, and still do now). I can recall the sadness that I felt and the tears that streamed down my face a week later when the realization that BunBun was never to return.
Despite this loss event happening so long ago, this memory is still so fresh in my mind, and it's an example of how strong a sense of loss can be and how long we can carry these feelings for into the future as if it happened only yesterday. It can help to have an understanding of the process of loss in order to work through the stages of grief as a way of dealing with the pain of loss.
Now that we have explored an experience of loss, what exactly is grief? According to helpguide.org:
"Grief is a natural response to loss [and is] the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away."
My example of loss above included several causes that led to my experience of grief including the loss of a friendship as well as (we can assume) a bereavement or death. There are many other causes that could trigger a loss including:
Essentially the loss of anything that an individual has attributed meaning to can trigger the grieving process and therefore it is important to carefully consider how an individual may experience this loss, especially those who may not be able to articulate just how much pain their grief is causing. Let's next explore the symptoms of the grieving process.
Each person will experience a loss in a different way, and the severity of symptoms may also depend on the amount of value or meaning the loss had in their life.
A few things to remember about grief:
Many people may have heard of the five stage model first introduced by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross consisting of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. These stages are not intended to be linear, nor does everyone who experiences grief move through all (or any) of the stages. The grieving process is a complex and unique process and it's okay to experience different symptoms or stages than others.
Other symptoms of grief can include:
Next week we will explore the impact of loss and how it can alter the process of grieving, including a focus on complicated grieving (what is it, what it looks like, and how it can be challenging to cope through).
Stay tuned & share your comments below!
Also check out my previous blog posts on the related topics of anxiety & depression:
References: onlyhealthy.com, helpguide.org, addictionhope.com
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