Coping With Grief

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Coping With Grief
Coping With Grief

Video: Coping With Grief

Video: Coping With Grief
Video: The Grieving Process: Coping with Death 2023, March

Coping with grief

Life and death are inextricably linked. Nevertheless, the topics of dying and mourning are subject to many taboos. The loss of a loved one is usually a major turning point in life. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone grieves differently.

Grief is a healthy response, not a disease. Grief processes often run in phases. These represent a rough orientation and can therefore offer support.


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  • How do I talk to children about grief?

Most of the time, the grief subsides on its own. If it doesn't seem to stop or if it turns into depression, professional help may be necessary. But not only death can cause sadness or feelings of loss. Life crises are also sometimes associated with severe losses.

How does a grief process work?

Sometimes it is possible to say goodbye to the dying. But it also happens that someone is suddenly torn from life, for example by an accident. The painful loss through the death of a loved one is followed by a process of grief that is not always immediately apparent as such.

One way of making grief more understandable is through the so-called phase models. However, they only offer clues. In general, there are phases in which it is first realized that the loss is real. After the emotional pain or grief, the loss is finally accepted. Less and less energy is needed to cope with the situation. Until finally new aspects of life arise. However, these phases rarely follow one another. Rather, they overlap, are sometimes indistinguishable from one another and can be repeated.

Phase models of coping with loss and grief

There are models (for example by the psychologist Verena Kast or the psychiatrist Johann Cullberg), which sketchily describe how crises (e.g. grief or loss) can be coped with:

  • Phase 1 - Shock: At the beginning of a mourning process or a crisis there is usually the “not wanting to believe” the situation (“It's all just a bad nightmare”). In addition, there is “inner chaos” up to the feeling of feeling paralyzed inside.
  • Phase 2 - Emotional Reaction: Reality slowly emerges. Since this is often difficult to grasp and very stressful, intense, chaotic feelings such as great sadness, anger, anger, fear and feelings of guilt arise.
  • Phase 3 - memory / acceptance: going through a memory phase - photos are viewed, shared experiences are recreated. Acceptance sets in - the loved one can continue to accompany you “internally”. Or with other serious life events, the horror of what has happened is no longer so great.
  • Phase 4 - Reorientation: New possibilities for orientation are found. In this last phase of crisis management, a realignment - towards a positive future - is possible.

What feelings can show up in the grief process?

Grief can feel very different. It's also okay not to grieve. There is no such thing as “right” or “wrong” grieving. The death of a loved one is not always the cause of grief. For example, lovesickness or the loss of a job or health can lead to loss and grief processes. The following sensations can occur, among others:

  • Feeling of shock ("as if foggy"),
  • Numbness of feeling,
  • severe tiredness / exhaustion,
  • overwhelming sadness,
  • frequent crying,
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Anger and anger.

Not all of these feelings are always there. Maybe others too. They can also appear very suddenly and intensely. Or rather be there in the background. The feelings usually gradually lose their intensity and subside after a while. Some pain can stick with memories. But also emotional warmth and enrichment when remembering beautiful past moments or gratitude for new paths in life.

How can I cope with grief?

From the mourning phases it can be seen that mourners have to master emotional as well as everyday, often great, challenges in the course of the mourning process:

  • Recognize and accept the loss as a reality.
  • Process the emotional pain.
  • Cope with everyday life without the deceased person.
  • Build a lasting inner connection with the deceased.
  • Find and live a life perspective without the loved one.

Coping with these “mourning tasks” takes time and strength. Therefore, understanding and support from the social environment is important. People close to you from family and friends, but also professionally trained helpers (psychotherapists, etc.) and pastors can accompany and support you. The exchange in self-help groups can also be helpful.

Support and comfort

In times of grief, it often helps to exchange ideas with people who are close to you. Even if you don't feel like talking: Conversations with friends and family have a positive effect on your well-being. Suffering as well as beautiful - albeit sometimes painful - memories are shared with one another. Remembering the time together with the deceased is an essential part of the grief work. To go through the divided phase of life again in your mind helps to say goodbye and to go new ways. Above all, beautiful moments should be allowed to live on in the heart and in memories. Thoughts and ideas of the deceased can also accompany the bereaved as a legacy.

If unpleasant memories are awakened, for example because of a past conflict, it is advisable to try to forgive. The process of forgiving is not always easy and sometimes takes several years and in some cases support from other people or professional helpers. But it can be worthwhile to make the rest of your life easier.

What can I do myself?

Mourning can take up space and take time. Tears and sadness shouldn't be held back, they are part of the natural process of grieving. But all other feelings are "allowed" too. To mourn someone also brings us into contact with our own finitude. Therefore, despite all the sadness, it can be helpful to see life as a gift. Rituals, for example on the day of death or on All Saints' Day (such as a visit to the cemetery, family gathering, care of the grave or individual remembrance rituals) can continue to nurture the memory, but sometimes also trigger mourning again.

The following measures can also be helpful in the grief process:

  • Talk to someone about the stress. For example, with friends or family.
  • Do something for the mental balance. For more information, see Tips for Mental Balance.
  • Make sure you get regular sleep.

It is better to set yourself small goals and go through this challenging time step by step. If the emergence of the grief process does not succeed or the grief turns into a depression, professional contact points (e.g. psychotherapist) offer help. It can be difficult to judge whether you need help. The professional helpers can help you find out. For more information, see When the psyche needs help.

How do I talk to children about grief?

Children are also confronted with the issues of death and dying in everyday life. Either because someone in the family dies. Or maybe they have to say goodbye to their beloved pet. They also hear a lot from the media (e.g. about war, natural disasters, accidents). It is also in a child's curiosity to ask, sooner or later, why one has to die. And where to go then. What happens then. There are often great inhibitions when talking to children about the topics of dying and death. However, children need guidance in this regard. Talking about these topics as naturally as possible and giving understandable answers to the questions helps.

If children are directly affected by death or loss, they need support. So that they can express and classify their feelings. And they just need consolation too. Children grieve differently than adults. They change their moods more often, the grief is not always obvious. Children also need to understand why their loved ones are so sad. Honest, child-friendly answers are helpful. Explanatory children's books or the exchange with other affected persons as well as the use of professional helpers can help.

Sometimes grief can be very stressful for a child or a whole family. Then it is helpful to seek professional support (e.g. psychotherapy for children, family therapy).

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