Grief Counseling Certification Program: The Many Faces of Grief: Common Emotions that are Experienced
Grief is a universal emotion and experience. Everyone will go through grief in their life time. Many will repeat the experience throughout their lives. For a long time grief was shunned by society. People really did not understand it and so it was often a very private experience. Often times the person in grief believed that what they were going through emotionally was abnormal and so they were often reluctant to discuss their experiences. Little had been written about grief and thus people also did not know what to say or do to assist a family member or friend who was in the midst of the grieving process.
Today things have certainly changed. Grief has been studied extensively over the past several decades and we now know much more about it. Clinical research has been better able to more clearly define this phenomenon and we continue to learn more about it all the time. We have come to understand what intense emotions are confronted in grief and we also have come to develop solid interventions and strategies to help people with their grief experiences.
While grief is a subjective experience and unique in many ways, we have learned over the years that there are several stages of grief which are actually universal in nature.
These universal grief experiences include the following:
Shock and Denial
This phase often manifests itself in a sort of numbness, a feeling of disbelief and a sense of helplessness. This may occur immediately at the awareness of the loss of loved one or the loss of any kind. People may experience feelings of things being unreal, or feel like they are in some dream state. Denial is a strong experience and often people will respond to a loss as if it did not occur. Observers of this may think the person does not care or does not understand what has happened. The observation of denial can be perceived in many ways. In some cases the denial can be very intense and dramatic. When this occurs, professional help may be needed.
2. Pain and Guilt
As the shock and/or denial abate, it is often replaced with feelings of longing for the one we have lost. It is standard at this stage to experience guilt and remorse about things we may have done or not done, said or not said, to that person. Overwhelming emotional pain is difficult to deal with, and should not be stifled. In this phase we most often see people express themselves much more and we also will likely witness crying and the expression of many types of regrets.
A common question those in grief ask is ‘Why?’ Why Him/Her? Why us? Why me? Finding the answer to this question causes frustration and anger. It is common at this stage to try to find something or someone to blame, or take your frustration out on. In this phase we may often see the person experiencing trembling, and there may even be physiologic manifestations such as increases in blood pressure and pulse rates. Anger may even be expressed toward God for the loss. It is beneficial to encourage those in grief to verbalize their anger but to do so in more constructive ways.
You may experience a period of introversion. This stage of the process may leave you feeling low, and you may find you spend a lot of time reflecting on the experiences you had with your loved one. Those close to you will often try to encourage you not to wallow in your grief. However, this is an important part of the process. It allows you to work through your feelings about the one you have lost, as well as reflect on your time together. It is common to feel depressed and this should be acknowledged. If the depression persists for long periods of time or one begins to contemplate self-harm or suicide, professional intervention should be undertaken
5. Hope for the Future.
The sense of hopelessness and despair you felt will start to lessen. You can now begin adjusting to life without the person you have lost. Often, people in this stage of the process start to think about how they might best commemorate and celebrate the life of the person they have lost. Deciding on an online memorial can be a great way to honour your loved ones. It allows you to have a permanent reminder of them which everyone can have access to, be involved in creating and even add to.
6. Readjustment and Acceptance.
You will eventually begin to feel that you can settle in to new routines, and maybe even start making plans for your future. Life will seem less overwhelming. You can think about and talk about the deceased with more sense of a peace, rather than experiencing anguish. You have moved away from the intense pain of grief at this phase.
Time for Grieving
How long does this general process of grieving last? There is no good response to this question. Grief takes “as long as it takes.” While the above stages are generally universal, the time in grief is not universal. It is uniquely individualized. Some go through the experience and reach acceptance much sooner for others; it can sometimes take several years or more.
When the experience of grief persist for more than several years or when the symptoms continue to cripple the grieving person in living their lives then professional help is needed. A professional who has a certification in grief counseling can be of tremendous help. This professional is schooled in therapeutic interventions for grieving and can really assist in helping the person better cope and progress in the grief experience.
As time goes on we will learn more about grief and how people experience it. This will lead us to the development of even more and often better interventions. The time is now for society to become better educated about grief and to learn some common and simple ways to help others through this experience.
If you would like to learn more about our Grief Counseling Certification Program, then please review
The American Academy of Grief Counseling