Grief, Depression and Other Fun Stuff!
I’ve experienced my share of grief over the years, and I’m sure you have too. I lost my son in a car accident fifteen years ago. I lost my family and friends in a tragic religious mishap almost six years ago. I’ve been through three wives and various other breakups.
And it never gets any easier.
According to Dictionary.com, grief is “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.”
Those words are accurate, really descriptive of the intensity of the feeling.
In short, grief sucks!
Why am I talking about this? For one thing, it’s on my mind as the anniversary of my son’s death just passed. After fifteen years, the pain has dulled a bit, but it’s never gone away. And I think about it on a smaller scale whenever a beloved celebrity dies, or worse, commits suicide.
We’ve all heard of the five stages of grief, although there are certain problems with these ‘stages.’ First introduced in 1969 by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying, the stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. These stages can be confusing to some because they don’t represent an actual timeline experienced by a grieving person. As the theory says, the stages are not necessarily experienced in the stated order, and in fact, not everybody experiences every stage.
The fact is, these stages have been misapplied over the years, since Kübler-Ross’ theory is based on the experiences of those who were dying, not the survivors. But regardless of the problems with the theory and its application, it has helped the general public to gradually come to an understanding of grief and of the need for sensitivity when dealing with those experiencing it.
Although admittedly there are still an alarming number who think a depressed person should just ‘snap out of it.’
Wikipedia, though, presents a concise outline of the process of grieving in this way:
Shock and Denial
Shock is the initial reaction to loss. Shock is the person’s emotional protection from being too suddenly overwhelmed by the loss. The person may not yet be willing or able to believe what their mind knows to be true. This stage normally lasts two or three months.
Intense concern often manifests by being unable to think of anything else. Even during daily tasks, thoughts of the loss keep coming to mind. Conversations with one at this stage always turn to the loss as well. This period may last from six months to a year.
Despair and Depression
Despair and depression is a long period of grief, the most painful and protracted stage for the griever (during which the person gradually comes to terms with the reality of the loss). The process typically involves a wide range of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Many behaviors may be irrational. Depression can include feelings of anger, guilt, sadness and anxiety.
The goal of grieving is not the elimination of all the pain or the memories of the loss. In this stage, one shows a new interest in daily activities and begins to function normally day to day. The goal is to reorganize one’s life, so the loss is an important part of life rather than its center.
Whether it’s any more or less accurate than Kübler-Ross’ theory, in my own experience, this model seems quite accurate. Your mileage may vary.
The fact is grief is something that is impossible to quantify. It will be different with each person who experiences it. One thing that can be stated with certainty, though, is that sensitivity to the person experiencing it always helps, even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time.