Grief is a normal and natural, though often deeply painful, response to loss. The death of a loved one is the most common way we think of loss, but many other significant changes in one's life can involve loss and therefore grief. Everyone experiences loss and grief at some time. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be.
Each individual experiences and expresses grief differently. For example, one person may withdraw and feel hopeless, while another might be angry and want to take some action. No matter what the reaction, the grieving person needs the support of others. A helper needs to anticipate the possibility of a wide range of emotions and behaviors, accept the grieving person's reactions, and respond accordingly. Therefore, it is often useful for the person in grief and for the helper to have information about the grieving process.
The Process of Grief
The process of grieving in response to a significant loss requires time, patience, courage, and support. The grieving person will likely experience many changes throughout the grieving process. The stages of grief are usually categorized as shock, suffering, and recovery.
Shock is often the initial reaction to loss. Shock is the person's emotional protection from being too suddenly overwhelmed by the loss. While in shock, the person may not be able to make even simple decisions. Friends and family may need to simply sit, listen, and assist with the person's basic daily needs. Shock may last a matter of minutes, hours, or (in severely traumatic losses) days.
Suffering is the long period of grief during which the person gradually comes to terms with the reality of the loss. The suffering process typically involves a wide range of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, as well as an overall sense of life seeming chaotic and disorganized. The duration of the suffering process differs with each person, partly depending on the nature of the loss experienced. Some common features of suffering include sadness, anger, guilt, and anxiety. Some individuals may also experience physical, behavioral and cognitive symptoms.
Suffering is often the most painful and protracted stage for the griever, but it is still necessary. For most people, these many emotional and physical reactions are common symptoms that will stabilize and diminish with time as the person moves through the grieving process. If these symptoms persist, it may be important to seek professional help.
Recovery, the goal of grieving, is not the elimination of all the pain or the memories of the loss. Instead, the goal is to reorganize one's life so that the loss is one important part of life rather than the center of one's life. As recovery takes place, the individual is better able to accept the loss, resume a "normal" life, and to reinvest time, attention, energy and emotion into other parts of his/her life. The loss is still felt, but the loss has become part of the griever's more typical feelings and experiences.
If you are suffering from grief and/or loss and would like to talk with someone, call Health Services at 218-726-7913 and schedule an appointment with one of our counselors.
UMD Offers an ongoing grief support group during the academic year, facilitated by Barb Titus, on Wednesdays, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. in the Kirby Student Center, RDC, room 301 (across from the Dining Center).