Grief is a collection of feelings that everyone experiences when there are losses in their lives. Grief is not the same as depression. It can come from any type of loss. The loss of a relationship can cause feelings of grief. Many people grieve when they realize that they have lost some of their physical abilities due to aging, injury or disease. Some may grieve over past friendships or even when they retire and lose their identity as a worker.
The most common cause for grief is the death of a spouse, child, parent, friend or pet. When someone very close to you dies it may initially feel as if you will never be happy again. You may experience many emotions including anger, anxiety, loneliness, guilt, helplessness and sadness. Sometimes people report feeling numb at first. All of these feelings are normal. You may even have good and bad days when you are grieving. It is normal to have times of laughter and happiness during the grieving process.
Sometimes grief can turn into depression or what is referred to as "complicated grief. " If grief turns into depression, the feelings of despair and emptiness become constant. Loss of motivation, hopelessness, fatigue, withdrawal, and difficulty concentrating are also signs of depression. People with complicated grief get stuck in the feelings and don't move on, deny the death, become preoccupied with the person who died, or avoid things related to the person.
Completing the grief process is important because it can help you to recognize and adapt to the reality of the loss and to live a healthy life without the person who died. There is no right way to grieve or a set time to complete it. All losses are unique and reflect the quality of the relationship with the deceased, the characteristics of the griever, prior experiences with loss, and the circumstances of the loss. A loss that occurs as a result of a prolonged illness will be different from the grief resulting from a sudden death. Grief from a sudden death may be more intense since there has been no opportunity to prepare for the loss. Grief resulting from the death of a child is different than that from death of a parent. Some people try to avoid the painful feelings of grief by keeping very busy and pretending that they are all right. Failure to address the feelings that come with the normal grieving process can prolong the grief process and possibly lead to depression later.
The grief process involves recalling a collection of memories and stories about the person that died. It may involve talking and writing about the good and bad memories about your time with the person. It is common to have regrets about things that you believe you should have said or done and you will need to let go of them. Grieving means allowing yourself to acknowledge, experience, and release the many feelings that occur when you lose someone.
Page 2 of 2 - Grief recovery can be defined as acceptance of the death of a loved one and return to your previous healthy level of functioning. A sign that you have completed the grief process may be the ability to increasingly choose happiness and smile when you remember the person. Just as an injured body gradually weaves itself back in a whole, death of a loved one tears at the spirit but grieving allows it to heal.
David Gannon, Ph.D., Psychological and Family Consultants, Canton, Ohio.