You may be mourning the loss of a job, a relationship or your formerly healthy self. Or you may be suffering perhaps the most profound form of grief; the loss of a loved one.
A broken heart is a real thing. The emotional stress associated with grieving can affect your mind, body and spirit. It can trigger psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety, and can actually cause physical pain as well. You may feel heavy, fatigued or weepy. You may have trouble eating, sleeping or getting out of bed. You may suffer body aches, headaches and digestive problems. You may see no end in sight.
If you feel stuck in your grief, you’re not alone. One in five people who experience significant loss admit to the same. You need support and, thankfully, it is available.
Everyone suffers grief at some time
Grief is one of the most powerful emotions and difficult life stressors a person can face. Unresolved grief can lead to negative impacts such as destructive behavior (regardless of age), physical illness, psychological problems, social impairment and spiritual struggles. And while no two people grieve the same, one commonality in the grieving process is just that; it is a process—a continuum involving many changes over time.
Grief has many faces.
Much has been written about the stages of grief, suggesting that your grief process is a linear series of specific emotions; that your grief will progress in a way consistent with others.
But grief is actually a cyclical series of unique reactions to loss, including:
- Emotional release
- Physical symptoms of distress
- Hesitancy to renew normal activities
- Healing of memories
- Acceptance of one’s new role in life
These reactions, called the faces of grief, can occur in no particular order, on no particular timeline and, in some cases, can recur over a period of time.
Learn to face your grief
A common fear among people who are grieving is that once they succumb to their grief, they will be overwhelmed and unable to handle it. The truth is that unexpressed grief lasts indefinitely. Grief that is experienced and expressed does diminish over time. To start the healing process, it is important to identify how you grieve.
There are two types of grieving
Instrumental grievers have a more tempered affect to loss and are more likely to describe grief in physical or cognitive terms. They are also more likely to cognitively process grief or immerse themselves in activity as a diversion.
On the other hand, intuitive grievers are more likely to experience their grief as waves of affect. They often need to express their feelings and seek the support of others. Intuitive grievers find it more beneficial to vent and facilitate a strong expression of feelings. These individuals will likely benefit more from support networks.
Grief support groups can help
Regardless of how you grieve, support groups can be beneficial in many ways. Grief support groups can help by providing a high level of social support, reducing the risk of bad outcomes and shortening the duration of your grief.
The goal of these groups is not to cheer you up or minimize your grief, but to aid you in navigating your personal process.
I would like to express my gratitude to Chaplain Mike Lombardo, D. Min., from whose work I have drawn quite extensively.
To learn more about AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, visit AdventHealthKC.com.
Mark Stoddart is administrative director for Spiritual Wellness at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission.