Updated: Oct 22, 2022
From One Bereaved to Another…
Does grief that follows the painful loss of a loved one come with an expiration date? We often hear and say “Time heals everything”, but it’s not just the passage of time that helps you heal, it’s your resilience, social support, adaptive coping mechanisms and many other factors that drive you through the process of healing. With negative coping mechanisms, the passing time does more harm than good.
Distress is an inevitable response to loss and the failure to experience distress is a sign that the individual has not grieved “properly.” As a result, the person is expected to suffer negative consequences later.
Overcoming Grief — The Do’s and Don’ts
Avoidance — The most common strategy for dealing with death is avoidance as it is a taboo topic in our society. People often use euphemisms such as “passed away” to avoid even the word itself. Deliberate avoidance of grief-related emotions may affect our concentration and normal day-to-day functioning. Instead of avoiding your emotions, accept them. Although avoidance may bring temporary calmness but in the long run it worsens the process of healing.
Ruminative Thoughts — Individuals engage in ruminative coping, which continuously focuses attention on sad or dark thoughts. They repetitively focus on negative emotions without taking any action to relieve these emotions.
To stop this pattern first try to pay close attention to your thoughts, whenever you locate these ruminative thought patterns try to shift your focus. You can indulge in meditation or use focusing techniques like counting your breath can help. You can also try to replace your negative thoughts about the loss with more positive memories of your loved one.
Emotional Expression — Failure to express the intense emotions that follow the loss can be maladaptive. Experimental studies have consistently found that inducing participants to write about traumatic events resulted in health improvements.
Start with sharing happy memories, the type of bond shared with the person or their qualities with your support group. And when you feel comfortable enough then share your experience of loss and grief. Talk to people with similar experiences. If you are someone who likes writing then maintain a grief journal.
Building resilience — In a study conducted by George Bonanno, it was found that by six months, the resilient individuals showed no elevation in depressive symptoms or functional impairment after the loss of a loved one.
Some of the ways to build resilience include:
Prioritize building strong and supportive relationships
Invest time and effort in becoming self-aware
Practice altruism and maintain an optimistic perspective
Respect your mental wellbeing
Seeking professional help — If you feel overwhelmed seek professional assistance. Therapy and Counselling are not just end measures but equally important preventive measures.
Research suggests that grief does not necessarily follow a straight path. Just as individuals differ in their experiences of dying, they also show variable responses to grief. Similarly, at ManoShala, we believe that each individual’s grief differs from that of others, so does your process of healing and the time you take to reach there. If you feel overwhelmed and feel like reaching out, you can find easily accessible expert assistance at ManoShala.
Muskan Gupta, Psychologist, ManoShala