By DR. FRED HALL, LPC
QUESTION: I have lost my mother to COVID, and several other friends as well. I am finding it so hard to deal with grief. What should I do to get through this?
Let me first say I am sorry for your loss and can only imagine how difficult this must be for you. To deal with grief, you need to have a basic understanding of it. Grief refers to thoughts, feelings or behaviors connected to the loss of something important. It could be a person, a relationship or a thing. Bereavement refers to the period of mourning after the death of a loved one. Reactions to grief or bereavement include sadness, loss of appetite, preoccupation with the deceased, or the inability to function.
Traditional healing of grief has often been seen through the lens of the Kübler-Ross model, or stages of grief. The five stages — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — have their place in understanding the various behaviors of the grieving person.
Denial is usually the first stage, and it is a fundamental questioning of, “Did this really happen?” There is shock and disbelief. Anger comes in the form of, “Why me?” or, “Why them?” There is usually an anger against someone or something, life itself, or God. Bargaining may be a way to put off dealing with the loss by “making a deal” with life or God if the person would not die or somehow come back. Depression is the accompanying sadness and lack of functioning when the reality sets in that the person is gone and no longer coming back. The grieving person may isolate themselves or lose their own will to live. Acceptance, the most desirable stage, is the acceptance of the loss even though there still may be pain involved. Calmness and a sense of normal life activities begin to happen again.
Realistically speaking, the stages are not linear but cyclical. Another perhaps more appropriate way of working through grief is to look at and master the tasks of grief or mourning. This includes accepting the reality of the loss, processing the pain of grief, adjusting to the world without the deceased, and finding a way to remember the deceased while moving forward in the world.
Accepting the loss of the loved one might mean coming to terms both emotionally and mentally. Confronting emotions, even painful ones, means naming them and learning how to cope with them. Adjusting to the world without the deceased might involve internal, external and spiritual adjustments as the grieving person deals with their new reality. Remembering the deceased is a mix of celebrating the person, remembering them, and giving yourself permission to be happy, function, and love again.
Think through, pray through, and attempt to ask people to help you deal with your grief and loss. Consult those who are trained in grief and loss, and give yourself time. You will smile and laugh again — hopefully soon.
Dr. Fred Hall is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), supervisor, life and leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, couples, families and organizations in training, speaking, consulting and clinical practice. He does clinical work at Cornerstone Counseling in Jackson.