The psychological impact of the loss of a loved one is one of the most distressing yet inevitable common calamities of life. Individual responses to bereavement differ. Lots of factors also determine how negatively impactful the response might be for the bereaved and other significant others in their lives. Losing a loved one is a life changing experience.
The status of the bereaved changes completely. A married woman becomes a widow, while children become orphans. Some individuals never get over the loss of their loved one. That is why it is important for us to know basically what our response should be if we are going through the loss of a loved one or we have someone close to us who are mourning the loss of a loved one.
It is (theoretically) believed that we pass through the process of grief from denial (this can’t be!!) through anger, to bargaining for time, depression and finally coming to the stage of acceptance. It isn’t everyone that will pass through this process successively. However, everyone must arrive at the stage of acceptance to maintain optimal psychological wellbeing.
Some reactions to the loss of a loved one are considered to be normal. These include; feeling tired, crying spells, feeling sad, feeling anxious, and feeling confused; sensitivity to noise, aggression, difficulty in concentration and forgetfulness. Sleeplessness, thoughts of the one who had died, guilt and shock are also normal reactions to the loss of a loved one. When any of these reactions become too prolonged or intense to the extent that there appear to be some streaks of loss of touch with reality or noticeable inability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, there is a possibility that the individual is experiencing pathological grief (a mental illness). When you notice this, see a health professional. If you need more expert help, you will be referred appropriately.
When the reaction to the loss of a loved one is still within normal limits, it’s best to avoid the use of drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with the emotional trauma of losing our loved one. Mental health experts advise that it is in order to let out your emotions early enough by either crying or expressing your thoughts about the loved one outwards to enhance what we called “catharsis”. Allow the bereaved to cry if he/she wants to. In some cultures, there are even culturally sanctioned approaches to wailing or expressing the pain of the loss of a loved one as part of the mourning process. The bereaved should avoid being alone as much as possible. This is to gather strength from others and to help in orientating oneself. Individuals who are bereaved can easily be confused. Hence, having reliable and matured persons around will provide the needed support. That is also why it is best to avoid making hasty decisions soon after the death of a loved one.
How do we end Grief or attain closure?
Theoretically, the culturally sanctioned process of attaining closure is not a guarantee that grief will not become pathological or come to an end. For instance, some cultures specify a period when a bereaved person has to be in mourning. The period eventually ends in a religious activity or ritual that is meant to liberate the person from the thoughts of/commitment to the dead. My opinion is that this can never remove the thoughts or the memory of the loved one from our hearts. I agree with the school of thought that value approaches to seemingly immortalize the dead by giving back to the society in the memory of the departed or seeing to the completion of projects or ventures which the departed would have loved to see completed. That is probably the best way to guarantee the possibility of attaining closure after the loss of a loved one. That is probably how we can safely and productively mourn the loss of our loved one while also positively preserving their memories.
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen!
Remain safe and sane; help others do the same!!