Grief work: refers to the healthy process of working through the emotions associated with loss to free oneself from attachment to the lost object or person, and readjust to the new situation, and go back to normal functioning, form new relationships. The usual experience involves the following stages;
Reaction to the loss in shock- this happens mostly when the type of loss was unexpected and in other terms as the reality of the loss begins to dawn on a person. The common symptoms of the shock can be disbelief, denial, and defense mechanisms towards the loss.
Survivor guilty –feelings of guilt because one is still alive or doing well while others are not. In this case, the survivor may feel undeserving of opportunities or life. Survivor guilt is part of grief work and should be treated as so to promote healing and a healthy worldview.
The emotional intensity of grief is characterized by different symptoms for both men and women. Common symptoms, however, include; crying, feelings of depression, lack of appetite, lack of concentration, and withdrawal from social situations.
Acceptance and resuming of everyday activities-this final phase may take longer a few months or years after the initial loss depending on the circumstances that dictated the loss: unexpected, expected, the kind of loss, etc It is normal, however, for the emotional reaction to decline in a year.
It is most advisable for people to access professional help in dealing with grief work however various likable activities can be used at the same time to improve a person’s functionality.
Steps for grief work
- Forgiving oneself- of mistakes done, and things not done, do not blame yourself for a single thing that you think you should have done, this will free you from survivor guilt and help in the readjustment process.
- Accept the difficult situation and choose to deal with it-part of dealing with loss requires someone to accept what has happened cannot be changed or has a solution so that they can be able to handle it
- Narrate your story-change your story focus on good moments, early recollections, and pleasant events that will boost positive emotions and can also reduce the level of attachment to the loss allowing one to enjoy life again (moving on).
- Emotion processing and loss adaptation-identify reasons for all the negative emotions you experience so that you can easily deal with the cause of the negative emotions.
- Tell and retell the story- this helps in relieving the experiences until one reaches catharsis by expressing their pent up emotions
- New interpretation in life- try to answer these questions in your life as they can be the basis of moving on. how to move on; (what can you do and what can you not do).
- Adaptation- as you adapt to the loss focus on the psychosocial factors related to stress, and triggers so that you can manage them effectively.
- Adjustment –in the adjustment process you need to pay attention to how you deal with the change that has occurred in your life in two ways; a) primary characteristic: identify how a loss might affect your health, current living circumstances, socially so that you may take necessary steps in life. b) Secondary characteristics- make meaning of the impact of loss in your life in terms of; the role, socially, financially, and emotionally this can help with the readjustment process while at the same time help make restructure meaning in life while letting go of unwanted privileges at the moment can help in overcoming grief.
- Find social support- this can be from people who may have gone through the same situations in the past and overcame this will increase resilience on handling the challenge as well as enhance the chances of going through grief stages effectively.
Negative symptoms to watch for:
- Grief interferes with their daily activities- this can translate to withdrawal from day-to-day activities that are necessary for a person’s life.
- relationship problems-constant conflicts with significant others or in any social group.
- When it is hard to go on with your life-inability to move on with other parts of your life such as career, financial, social, and self-care.
- intense guilt or depression-when the survivor guilt increases, a person begins to view life in the eyes of the dead in terms of grievances done to them, and how they are supposed to be alive.
- Persistent depressive states- intense emotions like crying, sadness, and physical symptoms like body heaviness somatization, etc.
Witnessing some of these symptoms is somewhat common during the grief process the problem would be if the escalation of the same in a period of 2 weeks or more can require professional intervention otherwise the person is moved vulnerable to developing disorders like clinical depression and anxiety disorders.
Suggested Therapeutic rituals during grief work
- Letter writing – this is a therapeutic ritual that helps people to externalize their feeling and emotions about the loss they have experienced. This should take place in counseling set up so that the counselor can look at the key themes in the grief and help you through the grief work. I will recommend the same practice it’s a worthy experience that does yield positive outcomes and healing.
- Visiting graveside/workplace – the visit is good for reducing attachment and can also help in making meaning of the loss while at the same time creating opportunities to move on in life.
- Celebration- this is a positive outlook on past experiences before the loss can help in healthy steps to move on and reducing survivor guilt.
- putting less emotional energy into grieving and putting it into something new (in other words, moving on).
5 Spiritual truths to remember when going through grief work
Jesus said that in this world just like He did we will suffer, but note that there are good days decreed for you because Jesus overcame the world (John 16:33).
God is closer to you when you go through a period of grief (psalms 34:18) he is close to brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
God has a promise in (psalms 147:3) he heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds.
For every suffering, God’s desire is not to destroy us but to make us. It is never easy to through this fire but in the end, we come out as gold as Job said (Job 23:10).
God will only allow good grief to you as his child in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 Good grief is that which leads to repentance, and ultimately to life. On the other hand, evil grief is that which leads to death. It is vitally important then that when we go through grieve or sorrow, to have the right kind of grief which calls for repentance.