By Melodie Veldhuizen
Loss is an unavoidable part of life and most of us have experienced it. Grief is a natural component of the recovery process after any form of loss, but the intensity and duration of the grieving process depend on the nature of the loss and also differs from person to person.
Types of loss
The spectrum of losses that one can experience is very wide and to a greater or lesser extent it will have a life-changing effect on your life and your humanity. It is very likely that every person will experience at least one, but possibly even more, losses during his or her lifetime. What one person experiences as a big loss, will not necessarily be quite as traumatic to another person.
What can be regarded as a loss?
- The death of a life partner, child, parent, brother or sister, a close family member, a friend, or a miscarriage
- The loss of health due to terminal or chronic illness
- The loss of a sense organ or limb
- Loss of control over your body (as a result of rape or intrusion into your personal space)
- Empty nest or when children and grandchildren emigrate
- A divorce or the termination of a serious relationship, a long-running friendship, or a break in relations with a family member
- Loss of income due to job loss
- Loss of material possessions through theft, fire or natural disaster or when you are declared insolvent
- Moving house, especially if it goes hand in hand with a large-scale reduction of worldly possessions, or when you move to another town and have to leave friends and everything familiar behind
- The death of a beloved pet
- The loss of a dream or vision for the future
- Loss of safety and/or security
- Loss of freedom because of imprisonment
Symptoms when a person is experiencing loss
Emotional: uncontrollable bouts of crying, sadness, restlessness and irritability, a feeling that nobody understands you, depression, concentration problems, anger, self-reproach and blaming other people, feelings of surreality, wanting to run away, shifting emotions
Physical: diarrhea, lightheadedness, palpitations, lump in the throat, headache, nausea, loss of apetite, shortness of breath, tiredness and sleeping disorders, nightmares, anxiety attacks, nervousness, fear, disturbing thoughts, social withdrawal
The phases of grief as identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
- Denial: This is nature’s way of making sure that at no time you absorb more than you can bear. This helps us to handle the shock of loss. You’re looking for ways to get through the day, you’re wondering if you can carry on living, how to do it, and why.
- Anger: Acknowledge your anger ─ the more anger you experience, the easier it will eventually go away. Anger knows no limits and could spill over into all relationships ─ yourself, doctors, friends and family, the deceased person, and even to the people or the situation that you see as the cause of your loss, and even to God. It could be an anchor that provides a temporary structure to the nothingness after your loss.
- Negotiation: You negotiate with God: “I will never again quarrel with my husband if You spare his life.” After the loss you will perhaps say: “If I dedicate the rest of my life to doing only good to others, I will perhaps wake up one day and realise that it was all just a nasty dream.” You become lost in a maze of “What if…” or “If only I…”. You’re living in the past and trying to negotiate yourself out of the pain.
- Depression: You are once again confronted by reality and it feels as if you will never get out this dark hole. Depression is a natural reaction to loss and not a sign of a mental disorder.
- Acceptance: This does not mean that you approve of what has happened. You are merely accepting that reality will never change again. You now experience more good than bad days and are learning how to adapt to the changed situation and to live with it. You are once more living to the full and enjoy life without feeling guilty about it. This is a slow process, however, and does not come about overnight.
This how one recovers from grief after a loss
Acknowledge your loss. Cry and vent your anger and frustration. Talk to your family and friends, who would like to support you. If necessary, speak to a counsellor or your parson. Join a support group of people who have suffered similar losses. Take care of your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing by eating healthy, exercising and avoiding alcohol and antidepressants. Relax, read poetry, inspiring books, play beautiful music. For encouragement, read your Bible. Return to you daily routine as soon as possible. Be prepared for relapses caused by dates and commemoration and festive days, places and situations that are going to remind you of your loved one or your loss. With time and patience things will get better.