The Grieving Process

Grief Support

We empathize with how the death of a loved one can be a difficult experience.

They may be gone, but they are far from forgotten. It’s an experience nobody expects yet leaves scars in our hearts that last a lifetime.

In our own way, Algordanza wishes to help you cope with grief and loss. A local certified Psychotherapist stands with us in this endeavor and brings you the following articles to help you in times of grieving:

The Grieving Process
The Grieving Process
Written by:Sasha Javadpour - Founder|Director|Psychotherapist-Hirsch Therapy Pte. Ltd.

The Grieving Process
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross ~

The grieving process is an extraordinarily complex response to loss that is influenced by a variety of factors. These factors include individual, family, cultural, religious, and societal factors. It is also a process that is unique to the individual with varying degrees of effect on physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and spiritual levels. People respond to loss based on the culmination of each of these factors, making each person’s experience of the grieving process unique. The bad news is that such a complex and unique process is difficult to study and predict, as evidenced by the large variety of theories surrounding the grieving process. The good news is that a strong theory has surfaced that seems to be able to provide an effective guide for the grieving process. This is the Dual-Process Model of Bereavement developed by Stroebe and Schut.

This model proposes that when people face a loss, they face two different sets of challenges. One set of challenges is directly related to the loss. This refers to the actual experience of grief. When a person attends to this set of challenges, they are said to be in a loss-oriented state. The other set of challenges is related to the secondary outcomes of loss. This refers to the adaptation that one needs to make to cope with the loss. When a person attends to this set of challenges, they are said to be in a restoration-oriented state. The Dual- Process Model of Bereavement is based on the idea that grief is an exhaustive and extremely painful process that is best facilitated by continuously switching, or oscillating, between the two states. This allows the individual adequate time to confront the pain, while occasionally providing the individual with breaks from grieving. Since it has been found that people cannot attend to both challenges simultaneously and that it is more harmful to be stuck in one set of challenges, it has been suggested that the oscillation between the two states is the best facilitator of the grieving process. That is why it is important to recognise in which state you are in, know what to do when in each state, and to remind yourself that oscillating between states is okay.

In the loss oriented state, the bereaved individual focuses on the experience of loss. The individual may be flooded with memories and may experience yearning for the deceased. In this state, the bereaved individual may wish to talk about the deceased, recall positive and negative memories, or withdraw and opt for solitude. The bereaved may feel sadness, hopelessness, or meaninglessness. A prolonged stay in this state can lead to clinical levels of depression where many real world issues are neglected. That is why it is critical to recognise this as a state that requires facilitation and occasional breaks.

This loss oriented state of reflection, feeling, and expression. It is best facilitated by activities that cater to these needs. Examples of such activities include visiting the final resting place, reading letters of condolence, looking at old photographs, recalling memories of the deceased, talking about the deceased, dealing with personal belongings of the deceased. It can also help to engage in activities once shared with the deceased such as eating their favourite foods, listening to their favourite song, watching their favourite movie, or going to places you both once visited. Such activities allow the bereaved the opportunity to recall and reflect on memories of the deceased. This allows any strong emotions to surface and be addressed. When people are allowed to confront strong feelings and memories, they have the opportunity to derive positive meaning from them. When grief is still fresh, these activities may seem daunting. However, by confronting these feelings and re-associating these activities with warm and fond memories, rather than death, these activities can once again become sources of positive emotions. This can help to create a more positive state of mind and significantly reduce grief-related distress, which are crucial in the coping process.

In the restoration oriented state, the bereaved individual focuses on the struggle of reorientation and adaptation to a world without the deceased. It may also include the rethinking and replanning of one’s own life, as well as the learning and mastering of tasks that were once performed by the deceased. In this state, it is common for the bereaved individual to attend to life’s changes, catch up on chores, get work done, socialise with friends and family, take part in community events, try new things, and find ways to distract themselves from grief. These activities can help the bereaved individual to rebuild their sense of self as they rediscover who they are, what they have learnt about themselves and their strengths, as well as how much they have grown as a result of this tragic experience. They may also see how relationships with others have become stronger through this experience. Together, such realisations can encourage post-traumatic growth, create a more positive state of mind, and reduce grief-related distress.

However, when the individual is permanently stuck in this state, the grieving process is avoided. Prolonged avoidance and suppression of negative emotions can lead to physiological reactions such as elevated blood pressure and heart rate. These, in turn, can lead to another series of detriments to health. Avoidance that is actively practiced in moderation, on the other hand, can facilitate the grieving process. It does so by providing occasional breaks, or distraction, from the exhaustive grieving process. Coming to terms with the death of a loved one is a process that works best when it is grappled with, set aside, and then revisited. For this reason, it is important to learn to recognise when you are in avoidance so that you can practice moderation.

Unfortunately, there is no specific or definitive amount of time that we need to spend in each state for optimum progress through bereavement. Current understanding suggests that it is a matter of building self-awareness. By simply asking yourself what it is that you need right now, the answer may be revealed to you. Do you want to be alone right now or do you want to surround yourself with loved ones? Do you want to just allow yourself to cry or do you want to go out and see the sun? Do you want to just reminisce about the deceased loved one or do you need to get some chores done right now? An honest answer to these can be indicative of which state you are in. It is then easier to facilitate each state with the suggestions provided in this article.

Grief is a complex and unique process that can be difficult to manoeuvre. The most powerful tools in your arsenal are self-awareness, self-understanding, and self-compassion. If you continue to face difficulties, it can help to speak with a psychotherapist or counsellor. These professionals can help you reconnect and better utilise these tools to help you move through this journey of healing and rebuilding.