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Processing Loss (Informative article)


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Hi all,

We have quite a few new people here who have just recently suffered a loss. I thought this article may be of interest to some of you.

Here is an informative article from our www.Beyondindigo.com website. I thought this may be helpful for some of you.

Processing Sudden Loss

By Glen Davidson, MD

There are stages of grieving which are part of the natural response to a traffic death or dehabilitating injury of a loved one. These stages are similar to the feelings experienced by a victim/survivor of a traumatic incident. These stages are marked by feelings which may seem confusing or even "crazy" both to the grieving person(s) and to those around them. There is no absolute time limit for any of the stages. The duration of each stage can be affected by individual situations and circumstances.

Grief and/or loss is so painful that sometimes efforts are made to deny or push the feelings out of mind. Grieving "work" involves allowing both fond and tragic memories to come to mind, experiencing and sorting out the grief (loss) from the rage (helplessness), and eventually replacing the helpless rage with some type of positive action for the future.

Does grieving ever end? There is a basis of reality in the expressions, "It will take time" and "Time heals all wounds". The pain of grief does lessen or change with time, the open wound heals, and the person is changed by the experience.

For those victim's and their loved ones who must face and cope with permanent disfiguration disability, or loss of prior levels of mental and/or physical ability, it may seem as though the "open wound" or "pain" will never heal and, in fact, becomes all consuming and controlling of their future. It is for these victims that an understanding of the grieving/loss process is vitally important. To understand these feelings and their effect on the dynamics of the victim's relationship with others, is to gain control over the process, rather than to be controlled and even destroyed by it. Reaching out for help from both friends and professionals is critically important and often the most difficult for these victims.

The stages of grieving are most often described as a cycle including Feelings and Behaviours.

1.SHOCK AND NUMBNESS (High level during first 2 weeks)

* Feelings may include: disbelief, denial, anger, guilt.

* Behaviours may include: crying, searching, sighing, physical symptoms, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, muscle weakness, limited concentration, inability to make decisions, emotional outburst(s), impeded functioning.

2.SEARCHING AND YEARNING (High level from 2 weeks to 4 months)

* Feelings may include: despair, apathy, depression, anger, guilt, hopelessness, self-doubt, very sensitive to stimuli.

* Behaviours may include: restlessness, impatience, poor memory and lack of concentration, social isolation, crying, anger, loss of energy, testing what is real.

* Comments: In crisis, we become open to a wider spectrum of stimuli in our environment. We are susceptible to over-reading stimuli. We need to talk things out in order to refocus our interpretations. We cannot get through the mourning process alone. It is important to reach out during the first four months when motivation is high. 3.DISORIENTATION (Peaks at 4-7 months)

* Feelings may include: depression, guilt, disorganization, feeling that grieving is a disease.

* Behaviours may include: low compliance with orders of physician, resistance to reaching out or sharing with others, urge to try to live as if nothing has happened, restlessness, irritability.

* Comments: It is at this stage that an awareness of reality and it's consequences is very high. A weight loss or gain of more than 10 pounds may occur. The victim must beware of trying to live as if nothing has happened or giving into the urge to flee the setting in which the loss occurred, for these are temporary solutions to a permanent situation.

4.REORGANIZATION (Takes 18-24 months to stabilize after major change)

* Feelings may include: sense of release, no longer obsessed by loss, renewed hope and optimism.

* Behaviours may include: renewed energy, stable sleeping and eating habits, relief from physical symptoms, better judgment making, increased interest in goals for the future.

* Comments: All four phases peak on anniversary days or your "significant" days. We mourn loss, both through death and major joyous changes (graduation, wedding, new job). Depression is nature's way of getting you to simmer down.

There is general agreement among the experts on acute post-loss grief that these phases are not discrete and sequential. They do not follow each other in any prescribed order. They tend, rather, to overlap and to proceed in a jagged pattern of a forward thrust, then retreat to an earlier phase, then a forward movement again. No two people will react alike, and the same person will not react in the same way to every loss. However, each phase must be experienced to a peak of intensity before it can be resolved. Normal grief is healthy and should, under favorable environmental conditions, lead not only to recovery, but also to growth and healthy change. The grieving process can be visualized as a cycle specifically concerned with grieving or loss. This "cycle" generally follows a "crisis" or unexpected event. The following diagrams provide illustrations of the Grief/Loss Process and precipitating Crisis Experience.


The following thoughts on coping are offered by Reverend Kenneth Czillinger of Cincinnati, Ohio, who for the past 10 years has been involved in working with the dying and grieving, and more recently has participated in forming support groups for parents who have lost children through death.

1. Generally it takes 18-24 months just to stabilize after the death of a family member. It can take much longer when the death was a violent one. Recognize the length of mourning process. Beware of developing unreal expectations of yourself.

2. Your worst times usually are not at the moment a tragic event takes place. Then you are in a state of shock or numbness. Often you slide "into the pits" 4-7 months after the event. Strangely, when you're in the pits and tempted to despair, this may be the time when most people expect you to be over your loss.

3. When people ask you how you're doing, don't always say, "Fine." Let some people know how terrible you feel.

4. Talking with a true friend or with others who have been there and survived can be very helpful. Those who have been there speak your language. Only they can really say, "I know; I understand." You are not alone.

5. Often depression is a cover for anger. Learn to uncork your bottle and find appropriate ways to release your bottled-up anger. What you're going through seems so unfair and unjust.

6. Take time to lament, to experience being a victim. It may be necessary to spend some time feeling sorry for yourself. "Pity parties" sometimes are necessary and can be therapeutic.

7. It's all right to cry, to question, to be weak. Beware of allowing yourself to be "put on a pedestal" by others who tell you what an inspiration you are because of your strength and your ability to cope so well. If they only knew!

8. Remember you may be a rookie at the experience you're going through. This is probably the first tragic death you've coped with. You're new at this, and you don't know what to do or how to act. You need help.

9. Reach out and try to help others in some small ways at least. This little step forward may help prevent you from dwelling on yourself.

10. Many times of crisis ultimately can become times of opportunity. Mysteriously your faith in yourself, in others, in God can be deepened through crisis. Seek out persons who can serve as symbols of hope for you.

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The only thing that is missing from this is the long term or ongoing process of grief that many here talk about. While those things spoken of in this article lessen, they never really leave.

Part of being on BI is talking to those who know - it truly allows healing....

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The only thing that is missing from this is the long term or ongoing process of grief that many here talk about. While those things spoken of in this article lessen, they never really leave.

Part of being on BI is talking to those who know - it truly allows healing....

Thank you for your reflection on the article. I will look for more on processing grief in the long term. Yes, you are totally right, the emotions never leave. We never forget or want to forget our loved ones. And sometimes, when you think you are doing okay and moving forward, you suffer a setback and it feels like the loss happened yesterday.

So, I am glad we can come here to talk to others who know what we are going through.


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