Food for Thought: Loss of a loved one
The death of acquaintances, friends and loved ones arouse many latent fears of death in each of us.
During times of mourning, we grieve not only for the dead but also for ourselves, and the fact that someday we too will die.
Grief is best described as a physiological, psychological, and sociological reaction to loss.
Physiologically, the individual suffers from crying spells, upset stomach, headaches, diarrhea and even profuse sweating.
Psychologically, the individual goes through various stages of adjustment to the loss ranging from disbelief to despair. Sociologically, family and friends may grieve together; and thus share the experience.
The social support from others may be the most significant event in helping to deal with the loss.
Persons experiencing grief tend to go through somewhat predictable responses as they attempt to adjust. These include protest, despair, detachment, and reorganization.
The protest reaction immediately follows the death and includes the emotions of denial, disbelief and anger. This is often accompanied by feelings of numbness, weeping and body complaints.
The next stage is despair, characterized by considerable restlessness, disorganization and in some cases searching for the loved one.
Detachment is the stage in which the bereaved begins to pull back from the loss of the person and recognizes the reality of the loss.
Often the bereaved will withdrew from others. This period of being alone is a time for doing one’s final grieving.
The final stage of grieving is reorganization. A sign that reorganization has occurred is the ability of the grieving person to talk about the lost person without the severe emotional upheaval.
The ability to remember the deceased in favorable terms without continual crying is another sign of final adjustment.
The time necessary for grieving is difficult to determine and varies among individuals. Grieving is complete when the person returns to a normal living pattern with no lingering guilt.
Many people feel one year is an appropriate time and that major decisions such as selling one’s house and moving, remarrying, or taking a job should be postponed for a least that long after the death of a spouse.
The period of grieving is a necessary part of the individual’s adjustment to the loss of a significant other. This adjustment is helped if the situation surrounding a death encourages the necessary grieving.
Much of the ritual surrounding the funeral is designed to assist the grieving individual. Grief is best resolved in a supportive environment in which the assistance of others is readily available.
Family, friends and religious convictions often help the individual adjust to the loss of a loved one. The bereaved will need support for months to come.
Too often once the funeral is over people scatter; however, this is the time when the one left behind needs the most support and has the hardest time.
Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.