Grief and loss are part of human experiences. Sometimes we lose someone dear to us, a pet, experience a heart-breaking divorce or separation, or lose anything important to us. Although grief and loss happen every day, it is not something that one would wish to experience nor is it easy to handle. Most people have gone through loss and grief, and most can narrate their experiences. In my life, I have experienced loss and loss several times but grief from the loss of a relative or a person dear to me affects me most.
Personal Reflection on loss and grief
In general, I associate grief and loss with death. Although I have lost a number of my relatives and people close to me, passing on of my brother had the greatest effect on me. My brother was so important to me that I still remember some of the good times that we had together. It is normal to experience deep emotion, psychological or physical reaction from a loss. Although grief plays a significant role in the healing process, it takes up a lot of energy and may take a long (Robak & Weitzman, 1995).
I lost my brother when I was about eleven years. Although I had some understanding of death, I do not think I had a complete understanding of it. The death of the brother was a bitter reality that I had difficulty in understanding and accepting. Although I was aware of death, I do not think whether I ever imagined that such an experience could happen to a person not only close to me but also dear.
Grief is a normal part of the human experience and a frequent reaction to the loss of an important person to us or a significant life change (Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, 2010). At some point in our lives, everyone will experience grief, though it may be at different times and in different ways (Range, Watson & Polles, 1992). It is not unusual to experience intense emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual reactions after the loss of a loved one or a major life change (Klass, Silverman, Nickman, 1996). Grieving is an important part of the healing process, but it takes time and energy. Experiencing grief for the first time is usually a major challenge; without better-coping methods or support, it can leave a major scar in one’s life or lead to psychological problems.
Death is a word that most people do not like to hear. To me, death is one of the pessimistic words. According to Kubley-Ross & Kessler (2005), death is the permanent termination of all key functions of the body. Simply, it can be referred to as the end of life. Death is always a mystery. I do not remember death being discussed in our family until it occurred.
Stages of Grief
Grieving is a process. Kubler-Ross (2005) explained five stages involved in grieving. The five stages as mentioned are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and later acceptance (Kubler-Ross, 2005). When a death is reported to someone, the first thing to happen is a shock. Aftershock, denial comes in. In denial, a person is unable or refuses to accept that he or she has lost a beloved. After denial, anger follows.
According to Kubler-Ross, this is mainly because of the trauma that comes with death. Denial cannot last forever; one knows that life has to continue despite death, therefore bargaining or negotiation stages follow. In this stage, the grieving reflects on reasons to help them continue with their lives. Kubler-Ross emphasizes on depression stage. This stage explores the feeling of a grieving person and it is at this stage that they realize the extent of emotional attachment that they had with the deceased. Sadness accompanies the depression stages as the grieving realizes that the loss from death has a permanent effect on their lives.
The final stage of grief is acceptance. At this stage, the grieving starts to overcome the effects of the loss and convince themselves to continue. Kubler-Ross explains that not all people go through all the stages while the duration of a particular stage may vary from one person to the other. In my case, I experienced all the stages of grief. The most challenging stage for me was denial. I could not accept that I had lost my brother.
Death of my Brother
My older brother’s death, as I can remember, was the first to happen in our family. My brother had been involved in a fatal accident but was lucky to escape, though with major injuries. It was a week after the accident. I went to school as usual though I had overheard my parents discussing the deteriorating state of my brother’s health.
I was excited when I was called for early dismissal without knowing the sad information that awaited me. At the front office, I met my older cousin with his face looking sad. “Your brother passed away”, he immediately told me. I was shocked, I felt as if my cousin was my worst enemy for informing me about the death. I did not know how to react; I felt as if to scream. My brother was my best friend in our family. He was always good to me, often brought me gifts, and would take me out.
I knew that the brother was severely sick since I had visited him together with my family the previous weekend, but it did not occur to me that he would pass on. However, I did not like the way my cousin revealed the sad information.
It was not until I met my mother at home sobbing that the reality hit me. I immediately hugged my mother and started to cry. I felt sad for my dad for losing a beloved son. I knew dad as always jovial but for the first time, I saw his face filled with a lot of sadness. At the funeral, later in the evening, everybody was filled with sadness. Some people could not withhold their tears while others could not say a word. I remember seeing some of my brother’s friends filled with sorrow during the funeral. After the burial, I knew for sure that death was a reality. I understood that I would never be able to see him anymore.
Death is not easy to accept (Carroll, 1988). Although I have lost a number of my relatives and people I know and attended several funerals, I find it difficult to understand death. We always hear about death on Radios, television, or read from papers, but we do not imagine that the same can happen to people that we know or even to ourselves. When a person dies, we always hope that they have moved to a better place (Boss, 2000; Parkes, 1998). We console ourselves that our beloved is happy where they are. Bottom line is that the person is gone and we cannot be able to see, speak or interact with them anymore.
Coping With Loss
Grief and loss are experiences that we cannot be able to avoid. On one occasion or the other, we are bound to lose someone close to us or experience other challenging moments in our lives. Considering that loss and grief cannot be avoided it is imperative to learn coping methods. The first and most important way to cope with grief is to understand how it affects at a personal level. Understanding the effect of grief enables one to take the essential steps toward healing. The initial stage associated with grief is shocked. Shock is the first thing that happens when someone loses someone close to them or experiences any other loss (Walsh-Burke, 2006).
One finds it difficult to accept the loss and may end up in a state of denial. At this initial stage, an individual may feel empty accompanied by changes in appetite and sleep. One may have difficulty in meeting basic needs and carrying on with normal daily chores. Negative feelings such as sadness, anger, sorrow, fear, guilt, and to some extent depression are often experienced (Walsh-Burke, 2006). Although support is necessary, an individual dares to accept that helps most.
Traywick (2007) defines grief as the feeling that one gets after something that one loves is taken away. She says that grief is a natural response, therefore, we should learn to cope with it. The sources of loss are varied. They may include loss of job, relationship breakdown, death of a pet, a miscarriage, loss of a dream, or loss of friendship. Although we experience grief on several occasions, its magnitude varies with the intensity of a loss (Healey, 2005). Grief also varies from one person to another. For instance, while some people may not be grieved by the loss of a pet, others could be highly affected. The ways we grieve vary.
Tuly (2003) asserts that grieving is personal and therefore an individual experience. She says that the way an individual grieve is dependent on many factors. The factors that determine grief include the nature of loss, personality, life experience, faith, and coping methods (Doka, 1999). This can explain the varied ways in which people react to death. Because of the different ways in which people respond to loss, it is only right to allow people time and space to grief. With my experience with grief, I prefer to be given space to work my way out. I do not like it when other people try to explain or console; the best consolation to me is space.
Coping with my brother’s death is among the most challenging experiences that I had during my childhood. Though I was a child, death affected all my activities. I could not enjoy playing with my friends as before, could not concentrate in school, and found home not as comfortable as before. Denial is usually the first reaction to loss (Bruce & Schultz, 2000). One does not want to accept that the beloved is no longer alive. My brother was very close and friendly to me. When my cousin informed me about his death, I could not believe it and thought that I was dreaming. Tuly (2003) explains that denial is an important coping mechanism. She elaborates that denial helps one to overcome but warns of prolonged denial. Without overcoming denial, she explains, the healing process cannot start.
Acceptance is essential in overcoming loss. Although easily said, acceptance is not easy (Walter & McCoyd, 2009). I remember that it took me about a month to accept my brother’s death. Acceptance, however, helped me cope with the loss and proceed on with life. I accepted that it was not possible to see him and hear his loud voice. I accepted that I had to live on without him even though he was dear to me. Today I know that grieving is a process and people go through it differently. I therefore understand and am patient with the grieving.
Loss and grief are experiences that people have to live with. Although there are various sources of grief, the death of a loved one is the common cause. Coping with the death of a close person is challenging. Accepting the death of my beloved brother was the most challenging thing that I experienced during my childhood. Whenever I come across a grieving person, I can understand them. Although people experience and cope with loss differently, I find the best support as allowing them time and space to grief. Death is an unavoidable human passage; unfortunately, however, it is rarely discussed in most families. Discussing death freely can not only remove the mystery surrounding death but also help people accept it easily.
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