FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 11, 2014) -- As a community that has experienced a tragic loss, the impact of that loss may linger. It’s important to find positive ways to cope with thoughts and feelings in a healthy way.
For many, loss is not a new phenomenon or foreign occurrence in their lives. Oftentimes when people experience loss, and almost without fail, they have to quietly digest or in measure of outburst, befriend it, and then say to themsevles, “This feels familiar and I’m going to make it through.”
It is important to distinguish the difference between normal grief and depression. Grief and depression
When an individual loses someone or something dear to them, it’s natural to feel pain and grief. The grief process is normal, and most people go through it. But when grief takes over a life and an individual begins to feel hopeless, helpless and worthless, then it’s time to talk to a doctor.
What is grief?
Grief is a natural response to death or loss. The grieving process is an opportunity to appropriately mourn a loss and then heal. The process is helped when you acknowledge grief, find support and allow time for grief to work.
Each year, between 5- 9 percent of the population loses a close family member. But that’s not the only kind of loss that can cause grief. People can feel loss when:
• They become separated from a loved one
• They lose a job, position, or income
• A pet dies or runs away
• Kids leave home
• They have a major change in life such as getting a divorce, moving or retiring
How do we react to grief and loss?
There are specific stages of grief. They reflect common reactions people have as they try to make sense of a loss. An important part of the healing process is feeling and accepting the emotions that come as a result of the loss.
The following are the common stages of grief that people go through:
• Denial, numbness, and shock- Numbness is a normal reaction to a death or loss and should never be confused with “not caring.” This stage of grief helps protect us from experiencing the intensity of the loss. It can be useful when we have to take some action, such as planning a funeral, notifying relatives or reviewing important papers. As we move through the experience and slowly acknowledges its impact, the initial denial and disbelief fades.
• Bargaining – This stage of grief may be marked by persistent thoughts about what “could have been done” to prevent the death or loss. Some people become obsessed with thinking about specific ways things could have been done differently to save the person’s life or prevent the loss. If this stage of grief isn’t dealt with and resolved, the person may live with intense feelings of guilt or anger that can interfere with the healing process.
• Depression – In this stage, people begin to realize and feel the true extent of death or loss. Common signs of depression in this stage include trouble sleeping, poor appetite, fatigue, lack of energy and crying spells. Individuals may also have self-pity and feel lonely, isolated, empty, lost and anxious.
• Anger – This stage is common. It usually happens when someone feels helpless and powerless. Anger can stem from a feeling of abandonment because of a death or loss. Sometimes a person is angry at a higher power, at the doctors who cared for a lost loved one or toward life in general.
• Acceptance – In time, people can come to terms with all the emotions and feelings they have experienced when the death or loss happened. Healing can begin once the loss becomes integrated into their set of life experiences.
Throughout our lives, we may return to some of the earlier stages of grief, such as depression and/or anger. Because there are no rules or time limit to the grieving process, everyone’s healing process and resilience level will be different.
I encourage anyone who feels they are experiencing anger and/or depression to seek help whether it be talking to a battle buddy, chaplain or their health care provider.