Grief is a natural human experience, an unwelcome experience, an emotional experience, a uniquely personal experience and a manageable experience. According to Dr. Bill Webster, there are several different types of loss that we may grieve. Relational loss is the loss of a loved one or a pet. Relational loss also occurs when someone we care about dies. Material loss occurs due to a fire, robbery, moving to a nursing home, becoming unemployed or losing money in the stock market. Role loss occurs when we no longer have a role such as wife, husband, daughter, employee or we experience a loss of identity. Functional loss may occur due to aging, a life threatening illness or a disability. Systemic loss occurs when we move from a community or country and in the process lose friends, a church, a school, former place of employment or a culture. Lastly, intra psychic loss is the loss of hopes and dreams. It is a grief of unmet expectations which occurs with any of the above losses.
Grief is a process and can generally take one to three years to complete, depending on the attachment we may have to the person or the severity of loss. In some cases, grief may go on for several more years, especially if the person was not able to process the grief after the loss. Each individual grieves in their own way and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some people grieve on an emotional level and others in an intellectual manner. When someone grieves a loss they can experience many feelings and go through different stages. The stages people experience while grieving are “why me”, “what if”, denial, anger, depression, acceptance and lastly resolution. Other feelings or behaviours can be guilt, numbness, shock, disbelief, confusion, apathy, forgetfulness, fatigue or a sense of unreality about the situation.
The grief over one’s loss feels resolved after we have accepted the loss. All of the above feelings or stages, except resolution, can repeatedly occur until the person finally gets to the final stage of resolution. This is when the grief process generally feels completed. The grieving person can have many of the above feelings or thoughts in one day. Even with resolution the person can again grieve around what is termed “anniversary” dates to events or past celebrations such as Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, birthdays or the anniversary of the person’s death. The individual may also grieve around the date of a car accident, whereby there was a disability. These anniversary reactions occur around that time of year and are usually of a short duration (i.e. days or weeks).
In summary, the above grief process is a general roadmap and not meant to be all encompassing. Individuals, children, genders, cultures and religions grieve differently. As well, people who experience traumatic death such as death by suicide, murder or a fatal accident usually have a more complicated and difficult process before getting to the stage of resolution. The individual, who has experienced a loss, needs to be able to process this loss with family, friends and/or a psychotherapist. Emotional and instrumental support (looking after the grieving person’s children, cooking for them, etc) helps the grieving person feel less isolated and feel supported during a time of crisis.