Living Columns & Blogs

Know the stages of grief and how to deal with them

Spring has arrived and with the change of season, it can be a difficult time for anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one. Feelings of grief can be devastating and frightening.

Grief is a natural response to loss and a very personal and individual experience. How we grieve can be dependent on many factors, including one’s ability to cope, life experiences, faith and the type of loss. According to “Moving Through the Stages of Grief,” (www.emedicinehealth.com) there are four basic stages of grief: shock/disbelief, awareness, depression and reconciliation/acceptance. During the shock stage a person might experience numbness, denial, disbelief and some confusion. One might appear to intellectualize the loss rather than express one’s feelings.

As the shock wears off, the person moves into the “awareness stage.” This stage can occur two to four weeks after the death of a loved one and generally lasts three to four months. It takes time to fully absorb the impact of a major loss, and symptoms may include anger, fear and guilt. Experiencing symptoms of depression is also a normal part of the grieving process and is a psychological expression of grief. Grief is likely to be expressed physically (weight loss/difficulty sleeping/loss of appetite), emotionally (difficulty making decisions) and psychologically (depression/anxiety).

After that first year, reconciliation and acceptance will begin to occur. It is important to remember that healing takes time. There is no “normal” time frame for grieving or right or wrong way to grieve. The best thing you can do is be patient with and kind to yourself. Take care of yourself, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, stay with a daily routine and seek out caring people who will allow you to express your grief and talk about your loved one. Remember that not all people are able to tolerate the expression of painful feelings — choose a listener wisely.

If you have continued difficulty sleeping, substantial weight loss or gain, prolonged emotional stress or are overcome with thoughts of suicide, help is available. The following individuals can be contacted for support and counseling: your family physician, minister, grief counselor, social worker, psychologist or mental health professional. The Centre County Council for Human Services will be offering a workshop titled “Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others: Managing Grief and Loss” from 8:30-11:30 a.m. on June 7 at Calvary Baptist Church. Contact Connie Schulz at 231-1070 or ces11@scasd.org, if you are interested in attending.

Brenda Oyler Kim is a licensed clinical social worker who resides in the State College Area. 

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