Grief and bereavement: How to deal with personal loss?

The more personal a loss is, the greater the uncertainty it brings. These changes, sudden or not, can often lead to erratic and confused behaviour.

Published: 11th October 2019 02:02 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th October 2019 03:11 PM   |  A+A-

grief, personal loss, bereavement

There are ways to lessen the grief after a certain amount of time has passed.

Online Desk

Almost all of us have lost a loved one. Be it a partner, a friend, a child or a sibling, every loss brings with it intense sadness and turmoil.

A feeling of emptiness, inability to concentrate, sleeplessness, fears of the future...  Bereavement, which literally means "to be deprived by death", can indeed leave a deep impact.

The more personal a loss is, the greater the uncertainty it brings. These changes, sudden or not, can often lead to erratic and confused behaviour.

Medha Shree, a Mumbai-based consultant psychologist says, "It can be very distressing to not understand what one is going through and just dismiss the symptoms."

Though our extended friends and family are a phone call away, there are instances when bereavement can lead to stress and even affect a person's mental condition.

"Bereavement is a personal and prolonged process of experiencing the meaning of existence through the loss of a loved one. Indian rituals during the death of family members often are naturally designed to provide means of support to the grieving family. All relatives and friends come to pay their last respects and help the grieving family get over the initial wave of shock and help them accept the situation by talking about it again and again. In an individualistic society, support groups for grieving, emotionally engaging activities at workplace and shared workload can help the person fill the gap they feel after the loss of a loved one," says Sandra Roshni Monteiro, a health psychologist and ICMR junior research fellow.

Many people seem to feel a certain feeling of numbness after first learning of a death. However, there is no real order to the process of grieving. Though some of the feelings are normal and are often common reactions to the loss, one might not be prepared for the intensity of one's emotions or even mood swings for that matter.

Loss due to suicide

A loss due to suicide is likely to have adverse effects on the mental health of family members or close friends as it is sudden and unexpected. 

"Grieving suicide loss can be a complex and traumatic experience for survivors. Not only does one experience the pain of losing a loved one, but suicide loss can also bring up a lot of confusion and self-blame regarding death. Survivors of suicide loss may experience guilt or blame themselves for the incident. They may experience thoughts like "Why didn't I see this coming?", "Why did this happen?" or "I should have done something and this would not have happened". Complex grief can also bring up feelings of anger and rejection towards their loved one. These mixed emotions and thoughts can have a significant impact on the person's day-to-day functioning and their ability to relate to others in their life," says Ahla Matra, counselling psychologist and an associate at The Alternative Story. 

Dealing with the loss due to suicide

A loss due to suicide may leave the survivors with a tremendous burden of guilt and anger. In some cases, they may even feel responsible for the death.

Counselling during the first few weeks can be particularly beneficial.

"The grief from suicide loss can be complex and layered. Community is a vital part of healing from grief. When it comes to death by suicide, the stigma surrounding it can also lead to alienation and isolation of the friends and family members. People might find it hard to talk about the deceased and might not know what to say to offer comfort. This might make the process of healing more challenging for survivors of suicide loss," says Matra.

Learning to grieve

It takes time to fully come to terms with the impact of a major loss. One can never stop missing the person who is gone. But then there are ways to lessen the grief after a certain amount of time has passed.

"Identify people around you who can listen to you and offer non-judgmental support. Reach out to loved ones, friends or others for comfort and understanding. You can also consult a professional and seek grief counselling. A counsellor can help you understand conflicting emotions that you may experience and process the grief in a safe, non-judgmental environment," says Matra.

Coping with loss is vital for your mental health. It is only natural to experience bereavement and sometimes the only way out can be to allow oneself the time and space and find the support needed to grieve. 

Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for qualified medical advice. It only includes generic information. In case of queries or more information, please consult a mental health care professional.

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