Learning to cope with grief
Don't cling to or run away from pain. Learn to deal with it
HANDLING LOSS: It is important to find ways which will help you deal with grief
One of the lessons life teaches us, however reluctant we are to learn it, is the necessity of dealing with loss. There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, people we can't live without but have to let go. Entering the dark tunnel of grief and coming out at the other end unscathed or at least, minimally scarred, requires enormous focus and a lot of support from those closest to us.
When a loved one dies, no two people grieve in exactly the same way. Anjali has just lost her mother to cancer. Watching her cheerful and strong mother succumb to the disease has left Anjali drained and shaken. She finds herself tired all the time and at the same time unable to sleep. Anjali was always perceived as the pragmatic one in the family and seeing her losing her centre of gravity has left her family confused. Anjali has to work her way through her sorrow and reach a stage when acceptance spreads its gentle balm over the wound of loss.
Pain and pleasures
Losing a parent, at any age, is a blow that can leave us disoriented and feeling forsaken. Who now will remember the pain and pleasures of our childhood? Who will remember our first day at school or the time we learnt our first dance steps? Who will now love us unconditionally? When we lose a parent or a close elder relative, the landscape of our memories is altered irrevocably. Because a memory tends to become tenuous when not validated by the presence of the person you formed them with, you face the terror of your own past becoming ephemeral.
On the other hand, the loss of a young one in the family either leaves us enraged at the reversal of all natural laws, or feeling hopelessly guilty that we were not able to prevent the loss. In the natural course of events, the young survive the old. When this anticipated and expected order is violated, we are left bereft and floundering.
Unless we learn to cope with grief, it can overwhelm us and leave us susceptible to disease, both physical and emotional. Over the years, the process of grieving has been studied and strategies have been worked out to help us deal with it. People have identified five stages or phases that we experience while coming to terms with a loss:
These are not steps that will occur in succession but will overwhelm us at unexpected times. These feelings will gradually give way to acceptance for most people.
As women, our role in grieving is complex and is complicated by our need to remain strong for others.
Being there for others is sometimes a necessity thrust upon us and in some way may deflect the complete force of the grief from us. But we must be careful. Women who are the source of care for their family may postpone their grieving and forget to think about themselves. And thinking about your needs when a loved one dies is a must, to remain emotionally healthy.
When grief overwhelms us
Be on the lookout for signs, which will warn you that you are not moving towards acceptance and healing. You may:
* Work hard to the point of complete exhaustion to avoid being overwhelmed by your emotions.
* Suppress your emotions and resent those who try to help you.
* Remain depressed well past the normal healing period and be unable to function normally.
One of the commonsense pieces of advice given to those who are grieving is, "Running away from grief postpones sorrow; clinging to grief prolongs pain; neither leads to healing."
Be compassionate with yourself and accept support from family, friends, or a spiritual advisor.
Loss can also affect you physically. It's not unusual for someone who is grieving to have shortness of breath, heart palpitations, stomach pain, and sleep irregularities. Although you won't forget about your loss, and there will always be a dull ache in your heart, the intensity of the pain will diminish over the years.
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