Coping with Death and Dying
The loss of a loved one can be devastating, whether the person was a child, partner, friend, or even a pet, the one left behind often experiences a great void, stress, and of course, grief.
Grief is the emotional and physical condition a person experiences as a reaction to the loss of a loved one through death. (It is the opposite of mourning, which is an external manifestation of grief.) Grief is quite common and affects most human beings at some point in their lives. Whether they lose a child or a spouse, a friend, or a partner, they go through a time of mourning.
Layers of Grief
Complicated grief is prolonged grief lasting more than a year. It is intense, affecting other relationships and altering beliefs.
Anticipatory grief is the grief experience while knowing a loved one is terminally ill. This type of grief is usually accompanied by the opportunity to come to terms with the situation, settle affairs, and say goodbye.
The Symptoms of Grief
Grief manifests itself in various ways for different people, from emotional pain to social, physical, cultural, or religious.
- Unexpected and long-lasting crying.
- Post-traumatic stress syndrome.
- Early menopause.
- Nightmares or flashbacks.
- Hypersensitivity (irritability, becoming startled, troubles sleeping, or trusting others.)
- Avoidance of people, things, places, and events that bring remembrance of the loss.
- Strained relationships.
Coping with the death of a loved one is a process, and doesn’t have a time limit. It can last for weeks, years, or even decades. However, it is a process that people must go through in order to come to terms with the loss. They must deal with their emotions, past situations, and concerns for their future without this person. The saying “time heals” is often true for those experiencing grief.
The Risks of Prolonged Grief
Long-term grief causes stress and often strain on remaining relationships. The risk of divorce for parents who have lost a child is common, along with a decrease in emotional health, especially for mothers.
Stages of Grief
One of the most popular theories on grief due to death and dying comes from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD. She wrote a book, On Death and Dying (1969), and in it, noted five stages a person experiences when going through grief.
- Denial – difficulty believing what has occurred.
- Anger – a questioning by the survivor if this loss was fair.
- Bargaining – making a deal with fate for the return.
- Depression – the survivor deals with sadness.
- Acceptance – a resolution is made and death is accepted.
Other experts believe there are seven stages of grieving when dealing with death and dying.
- Shock or disbelief.
- Acceptance or hope.
Children and Grief
For children and adolescents who lose their loved ones, they may feel confused, forgetful, and expect the person to come back. They may not want to leave the comfort of the family and show the following signs when coping with death and dying:
- Loss of sleep or appetite.
- Changes in activity interests.
- Ongoing fear and concern.
- Separation anxiety.
- Difficulty understanding the permanence of the situation.
- Decreased self-esteem.
- Sadness, anxiety, and anger.
- Thoughts of suicide.
What Can Be Done for Grief?
Health care physicians can help with assessing the intensity of one’s coping with death and dying. To assess grief, they inquire about the symptoms the individual is experiencing then determine if it’s normal grief, prolonged grief, or another issue altogether.
They may advise the following:
- Journal Writing.
- Grief Counseling.
- Support Groups.
- Participation in activities (social, educational, and travel.)
- Physical Exercise.
- Daily routine (meals, activity, and sleep.)
- Spiritual interests (prayer and affirmations.)
However, it will take time and patience to get over grief.