Spiritual Life Church

 "Having God in Your Life Improves the Quality of Your Life" - Rev Daniel Hodlin


Spiritual Life Church
Rev. Daniel Hodlin  
Ordained Minister

Dealing with Grief

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Five Stages of Grief
When someone is dying, or going through the death of a loved one, or some other traumatic event, such as the loss of a job, their behavior can be difficult for us to understand, or even hard to accept. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief experienced by people going through a significant period of loss. These stages are described as: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance

1. Denial and Isolation Stage
Denial and isolation are usually the first reactions in the grief process, but we should remember that human beings are individuals and may not go through the stages of grief in the expected order. Denial and isolation reactions are include when the affected individual talks only about the future, avoids talking about their or their loved one's illness or loss, avoids family and friends, blames others such as the doctor, or the boss, and refuses to return phone calls to friends and loved ones

Its hard to know what to do when talking to a grieving person, but it helps to remember that denial acts as a buffer against the shock of dying or loss. Sometimes friends and family members think its best for the person to face reality, but pushing the person in this direction too soon can do real damage. Denial and isolation may be the individual's way of learning how to cope with traumatic news. To provide support to someone in this phase, be nonjudgmental of their behavior, dont take anything personally, and be a good listener when they want to talk

2. Anger Stage
Knowing what to expect from a dying individual and their family; or from anyone else experiencing a traumatic loss will help you cope with their reactions. Of all the stages in the grieving process, anger can be the most difficult for a friend or family member to understand. Typically, an individual moves from the denial stage to the anger stage when he or she realizes that death or loss is probable. During this stage the person may ask" Why me?. They may be angry that they are dying while others are allowed to live. They may also question their religious beliefs and accuse family members or friends of being uncaring.

Family members also go through intense anger during this phase. Like all the stages in the grieving process, anger can occur after any traumatic event. Anger has the power to tear families and friendships apart. In addition, dealing with an individual in this phase can cause feelings of anger in yourself.

The best way to deal with this stage is to remember that the anger is not directed at you, but at the situation. You may also want to visualize how hurt you would be in the same situation, and accept the behavior as part of a process and a sign of change. Dont allow the anger to alienate you from those who are important in your life. Also, it can be wise to allow yourself a break from the person, but assure them that you are not deserting them

3. Bargaining Stage
After the dying person or family member, or person who has sustained a loss has vented his anger at friends, family and at God, he or she enters the bargaining phase. This stage is seen as an attempt to enter some agreement or to finish an important task to prolong life.

During the bargaining stage, the affected person makes promises to God or other higher power, agrees to change their lives if allowed to live, asks for an opportunity to do something special before they die or face a disability or additional loss.

Remember promises may be associated with a quiet guilt. Allow the grieving person to express these feelings and talk them out. Too many times family and friends try to brush the statement aside and dont give the person a chance to talk about their feelings.

4. Depression Stage
After going through the bargaining stage, the individual or family members usually becomes depressed. This is the beginning of realization that death or loss is inevitable. If the person is going through an extended illness, the realization comes after symptoms worsen and a sense of great loss occurs. Patients in this stage are usually weaker and unable to perform even the simplest of tasks.

Dr. Kubler Ross stated that there were two types of depression: reactionary and preparatory. Reactionary depression occurs because there are additional losses of finances, job, independence, family role, and intimacy. Preparatory depression is related to the impending loss, or the death of the individual. Not only is the person depressed because of the impending death but often they question their significance in life. Its common for a dying person to think that their life has been all in vain.

The first reaction that caregivers generally have toward this stage is to try to cheer up the depressed individual and encourage them to look at the bright side of things. This may work somewhat for reactionary depression, but preparatory depression is more complex. A grieving person will find more comfort in expressing him or herself. Often this just means being a good listener. This stage of grief tends to be a quiet one, and sometimes all someone needs is your presence. Take the time to tell the person what they have meant to your life and urge others to recall the individual's good qualities.

5. Acceptance Stage
Acceptance is considered the final stage in the grief process. Some family members and friends see this as a happy time of resolution. However, according to Dr. Kubler-Ross, it also demonstrates a time when a dying person is void of feeling and begins to concentration on the inner self. Many professionals feel that this stage comes as a result of the dying person becoming physically weaker. This stage is usually only seen in individuals who have enough time to work through the other stages of grief.

During this time, the dying individual exhibits a decrease in interest in worldly events, a desire to be left alone, a decreased desire for communication, an increase in detachment from loved ones For family members, this stage can be very stressful. Family members may want to use this time to clear the air before their loved one dies, and they become frustrated when the dying individual wants to be alone. Some may interpret the expected detachment as rejection

If you are helping someone through this stage, you can help to respect the dying one's wishes by:
limiting the number of visitors, showing non-verbal signs of affection, and reassuring the person that its all right not to talk. Often, its enough just be hold the persons hand.

If you or someone you know experiences the following symptoms for more than a month you should consider getting professional help:

      Recurring thoughts or nightmares about the event. Having trouble sleeping or changes in appetite.

      Anxiety or fear feeling in danger again. Being on edge, being easily startled or becoming overly alert.

      Feeling depressed, sad and having low energy. Being irritable, easily agitated, or angry and resentful.

      Experiencing memory problems including difficulty in remembering aspects of the trauma. Feeling "scattered" and unable to focus on work or daily activities. Having difficulty making decisions.

      Feeling emotionally "numb," withdrawn, disconnected or different from others. Or spontaneously crying, feeling a sense of despair and hopelessness.

      Not being able to face certain aspects of the trauma, and avoiding activities, places, or even people that remind you of the event.

Advice for getting through these distressing times:

      Spend time with other people. Coping with stressful events is easier when people support each other.

      If it helps, talk about how you are feeling. Be willing to listen to others who need to talk about how they feel.

      Get back to your everyday routines. Familiar habits can be very comforting.

      Take time to grieve and cry.

      Ask for support and help from your family and friends. Join or develop support groups.

      Eat healthy food and take time to walk, stretch, exercise and relax. Make sure you get enough sleep.

      If you are trying to do too much, try to cut back by putting off or giving up a few things that are not absolutely necessary.

      Find something positive you can do. Give blood. Donate money to help victims of the attack. Join efforts in your community to respond to this tragedy.

      Get away from the stress of the event sometimes. Turn off the TV news reports and distract yourself by doing something you enjoy.

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