It is not uncommon to experience some or all of the following reactions to some degree or another:
- A physical reaction to the situation which can include an upset stomach, extreme fatigue, headache, tight neck and shoulders and other symptoms
- Feelings of sadness, anger, denial, guilt, anxiety, or fear
- Confusion and thoughts of disbelief and disorientation
There are certain behaviors that usually occur as well when it comes to dealing with grief, which range from sleeplessness to social withdrawal, crying, restlessness, absentmindedness and a loss of appetite. As the person begins to adapt to their new reality, the grieving process becomes less intense and he or she begins to return to his or her prior routine, and with time, the sadness and symptoms associated with the loss ease and become less intense. It’s important to remember grief is a highly individualized process with no clear and firm timeline.
Grief is a normal, natural and healthy response to loss and understanding it better can be helpful when a person faces a difficult change. Greater understanding also helps the person recover from it and grow from the experience. An expert on the grieving process, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, identified the five stages of grieving:
- Denial: This can’t be happening to me
- Anger: Why is this happening – who is to blame for this?
- Bargaining: Don’t let this happen, in return, I will...
- Depression: I am too sad to do anything
- Acceptance: This happened to me and I am at peace with it
It is important to learn how to live with the loss, express emotions and ask for help while moving through these stages. Taking care of physical needs by getting enough rest and staying healthy while allowing time to grieve are also keys to overcoming grief and moving on. Expect to have some setbacks, but try to focus attention on good memories and not the “should haves or could haves.” Writing down thoughts and feelings can prove beneficial.
Finding a supportive person to help ease the healing process who doesn’t judge and is a good listener can also provide comfort and make the process less painful. Seeking out community resources to address specific needs is also helpful. However, if time goes on and the feeling of grief is not subsiding or the grief is just simply too overwhelming for the person to function adequately, they may need to seek professional help.
We are fortunate that our community has many resources available for a variety of needs:
- Centre for Living with Dying (Santa Clara)
Offers individual counseling or grief groups to adults and children facing life-threatening illness or who have had a loved one die.
- The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clara County Chapter (Santa Clara)
Offers peer-led grief support after the death of a child.
- Hospice of the Valley
Offers individual grief counseling and support groups.
- KARA – Grief Support for Children and Adults (Palo Alto)
Offers comprehensive grief support, crisis intervention and education for children, teens, families and adults.
- Mid-Peninsula Widow and Widowers Association (Los Altos)
Offers support a support group and peer-led social activities for people who have lost a spouse.
- NAMI Santa Clara County
Offers a list of local and online resources for people experiencing grief.
- Older Adult Transitions Services (OATS) Program at El Camino Hospital
Offers therapy for older adults experiencing grief over life transitions.
- Pathways Home Health, Hospice & Private Duty (Sunnyvale)
Offers individual grief counseling, support groups and healing workshops.
This article first appeared in the February 2017 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter and the Spring issue of the Chinese Health Initiative Wellness eNewslettter. Learn more about the Chinese Health Initiative.