Despite the intense roller-coaster of emotions experienced by many bereaved persons, most grief is a normal albeit painful reaction to the loss of a loved one. Each individual expresses grief in his or her own way. Although grief is not time bound, the intensity of normal grief does heal over time as the bereaved adjusts to the loss.
Many grievers express their grief with emotional and behavioral reactions. Others, who express their grief cognitively and with physical manifestations, may appear on the surface to not be grieving, and their grief can go unrecognized and unacknowledged.
Stages of Grief
The grieving journey involves accomplishing tasks and making choices. These tasks include:
- Accepting the reality of the loss
- Working through the pain of the grief
- Adjusting to an environment in which the deceased is missing
- Relocating the deceased and moving on
- Readjusting spiritual and philosophical systems
The manner and timing in which these tasks are met will vary, and each individual will find his or her own way. Again, it's important to be kind and patient with yourself. Bereavement support groups can also be helpful.
On occasion, a person may become stuck at some point in the journey, and grief becomes complicated. Seeking the services of a grief counselor may be helpful.
Children and Grief
Although children are not able to fully comprehend death until they're about 10 years old, they are nevertheless capable of experiencing grief from a very young age once they're able to sense separation from caregivers. Children's grief is different than that of adults and depends on their developmental level. Children's grief may also be cyclical: Children will grieve within the confines of their developmental stage and then re-grieve the same loss again when they're more developmentally advanced.
Over time, the ups and downs of grief will become less intense as the wounds of loss heal. What remains is often not an ending but a new beginning, as new and different but continuing bonds with a loved one are established and personal growth and transformation are discovered.