Suffering is universal and comes in different forms. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or all together at one time. Grief is complex and unique in every case. It can alter one’s lifestyle, behavior, and personality as well as affect the people around him. One of my clients told me, “I was sixty-five years old when my husband died. What I am saying is that I had lived long enough to have suffered some awful pains, and done my share of grieving. But with my husband gone, I just could not seem to snap out of it.”
The prolonged grief in her resulted in depression. She became isolated and withdrew from all social functions. You might be one of those who have lost someone you loved or known someone who has lost somebody close to them, or you may be suffering because of a terminal sickness; or because of financial difficulties as a result of a job loss, a marital problem or a loved one suffering mental illness.
Grief and suffering are difficult to handle. How does one cope with them? How does one work through the difficult days, weeks, months, and possibly years? There is no right or wrong formula or a way to handle them. How one grieves depends on many factors. It depends on his or her personality and coping styles, his life experiences and faith, as well as the nature of the pain and suffering. The healing process is always gradual. It cannot be forced or hurried. Thus, there is no timetable for grieving. What one experiences is different but the process will take time. Therefore, it is important to be patient and to allow the process to unfold itself organically in its due time. It can be short for some, and lengthy for others.
The Five Stages Of Grief
Grief is not something one can just try to get over it needs to run its course. The loss of someone or the encounter with something tragic can be extremely hard and painful. A person can experience all kinds of unending and difficult feelings from pain and suffering. It is the normality of life. In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross introduced in her book “On Death and Dying” what has become known as the “Five Stages of Grief.” They help us to understand what a person goes through during such times. The five stages of grief are based on her studies of the feelings of patients who were faced with a terminal illness. Many have generalized them to other types of negative effects from the changes and losses in life.
The first stage is denial where one rejects what has happened or is happening to him or her. The second stage is where anger creeps in to complicate the sadness or pain one is experiencing. The third stage is to bargain by making promises to God, to ourselves, or to others in the hope to be well again. If it does, one will fulfill their part of the bargain. The fourth stage is where depression sets in where a person experiences a sense of helplessness and even hopelessness. The fifth stage is where one begins to accept as he or she recognizes that this is it, and there is really nothing he or she can do to change the situation or circumstances.
Grieving or suffering is unique and personal to each individual person. The five stages do not necessarily take place chronologically, nor does everyone goes through the same stages. In fact, some people resolve it without going through any of these stages while others go through every single stage with its full implications. While it can be a roller coaster ride as it can become rough, bumpy, and lengthy for some. No matter how many or what stages one goes through, it usually becomes less intense and shorter as time passes. Thus, time is needed to iron out the pain of suffering.
- Acceptance – No matter what causes grief or suffering like the death of a loved one, physical illness, unemployment, fear, or uncertainty of the future, do not deny it but accept it.
- Acknowledgment – Do not try to suppress or bury any pain or grief. But acknowledge them as the more you try to avoid the feelings of sadness, the longer the grieving process will be prolonged. Any unresolved grief can lead to complications such as depression, anger, anxiety, and other health problems.
- Release and Rest – Any feelings of loss and helplessness that sweep over us, do not try to hold back the tears. Tears are therapeutic. They release the tension of sadness and grief from our hearts which can be hard to express with words. Tears also exhaust the body and force us to rest as the pain of suffering can prevent a hurting person from doing so.
- Express – Talk to a trusted friend or a relative who will listen to you. Share with them your pains and burdens. Do not harbor them in your hearts or try to carry the load yourself. You can also use art to express your feelings. You can also write a letter to the deceased to say the things you never got the chance to speak. Make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life. Have a picnic at the grave site with surviving family members.
- Journal – Write down your feelings and pains and the things that are affecting your life. Writing your thoughts and feelings on paper will help to clarify and sort through your feeling. Sometimes you can even find the answers or way out for yourself through writing.
- Stay Active – Find something to do especially when you are overwhelmed by sadness or negative thoughts and feelings. Go for a walk, clean the house, run errands, visit a friend, sing, or paint. Do something you enjoy and bring fulfillment to yourself or to others.
- Stay Healthy – The mind, soul, and spirit are connected. Therefore, when you are feeling depressed, you will neglect your physical, and emotional needs. Thus, you must take care of your physical needs. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating well, and doing exercises. Do not use substances to numb the pain or to try and change your moods.
- Watch for triggers” of grief – Birthdays, anniversaries, or special holidays can trigger memories and feelings of sadness. This is normal but be prepared for how it can affect you. Be kind and patient to yourself and to others at such times.
- Faith – If you have faith, put it in the divine being you believe in. Feelings of hopelessness can consume all your energy in a destructive way. Faith will enable you to embrace pain positively together with the right perspective, it will be easier to make any necessary changes in your life and manage the pain of suffering better.
- Support – Good friends or support groups can be helpful to us. Communicate and express clearly what and how you like others to help and support you during the darkest hours.
If you have been impacted by any grief and loss, please do not hesitate to call SACAC as we have a group of professional therapists and psychologists who can help you.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist