Main Challenges When Facing Grief For The Loss Of A Loved One

Main challenges when facing Grief for the Loss of a Loved One

The mere fact of living brings us face to face with pain: we all, at some point in our lives, experience and will experience some type of loss. Pain is part of our human condition. One of the most painful losses a person can go through is that of a loved one. We know that our journey through life is transitory but, nevertheless, it is impossible not to experience intense discomfort after a loss, especially when it is a person significant to us. This person is usually someone we have accompanied, with whom we have shared memorable moments and others not so much, rather everyday ones, which however are the ones that are missed the most during a period of mourning.

The challenges that a person must face to go through grief are diverse. and, although it is a process that is experienced individually and subjectively, the challenges of losing a loved one retain certain points in common given the universality of pain within the human experience. For this reason, in this article we will develop the main challenges when facing grief over the loss of a loved one.

Grief: a common and particular experience at the same time

In the first instance, we must know that going through grief is an expected, desirable and normal event after a loss. A duel is the subjective experience that appears after a loss. It lasts for a certain period of time in which the loss is assumed, assimilated, matured and overcome—authors like Kübler-Ross even distinguish “phases” within a grieving process—but it cannot be easily pigeonholed within a fixed number of days or months.

There is no right time to grieve someone. Yes indeed, grief doesn’t last forever, but in no way does overcoming grief mean that the loved one is forgotten or the memory stops hurting. It would be correct to generically affirm that “it lasts as long as it has to last” and that even having completely gone through the period of mourning, the memory of the deceased person can hurt. All of this depends on the individual characteristics of the mourner, his or her history, and his or her connection to what was lost.

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A grieving process can be triggered by various reasons, such as the loss of a job, love, friendship, a personal project, a greater ideal, and of course, a loved one. The grief of a loved one entails a set of psychological consequences that translate into the way a person behaves, in relation to the outside world and with themselves; It also involves the deployment of rituals to face the loss; the application of different coping strategies against stress, sadness, anguish, etc.

Grief does not necessarily begin immediately after the death of a loved one. As we said, talking about grief is impossible without alluding to the fact that each experience is particular. Proof of this is the research that has been carried out on the grief of loved ones whose death is predictable (generally, due to an illness), which is called “anticipatory grief.”

Studies indicate that Anticipated grief can cause both a weakening of the feelings of sadness and emptiness inherent to grief —because the grief was brewing prior to the death— as an intensification of the symptoms —because the prolongation of that state of vulnerability of the loved one could have strengthened the relationship with the mourner and made the resolution of the grief a more difficult process—. As we can see, the experience of each subject is unique in relation to grief, and therefore, equally valid.

The main challenges facing the grief of a loved one

Next, we will outline the main challenges that a person could face when grieving the loss of a loved one.

1. Allow yourself to feel the pain

Although a certain amount of discomfort is unavoidable in life, human beings systematically resist experiencing it. On some occasions, it happens that after the loss of a loved one, a person does not feel like crying or expresses that they are not yet able to process the loss, using phrases such as the oft-heard: “I still haven’t fallen.” In that case, It is necessary to give yourself permission not to force yourself to feel something that, in truth, you do not yet feel. However, many people experience intense pain from the loss but do not give themselves the space to feel the physical sensations of pain: tightness in the chest, closing of the throat, digestive disturbances, the overwhelming need to to cry. On the contrary, they flee from them, supplanting them with other problematic activities or consumption. For this reason, allowing yourself to feel pain is one of the main challenges during the grieving process.

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2. Be willing to share the pain

As we have emphasized on several occasions, there is no single way to experience grief and therefore it is not necessary to force yourself to talk to others about the loss if you do not want to. However, it is a practice that can strengthen social ties with others – especially if they are people who also had a close relationship with the deceased person; can prevent isolation and reduce feelings of loneliness.

3. Elaborate on the loss

One of the main challenges once the loss is accepted is its preparation. Dealing with a loss is one of the milestones that make up the grieving process, and involves giving meaning to the departure of a loved one. Sometimes, we become obsessed with “not thinking” about the pain caused by someone no longer being with us when, in truth, it is through reflection and processing of what happened that we we can overcome the difficulties of grief.

Taking the time to write about what happened, staying silent for a while, performing rituals that symbolically represent something for us in relation to the deceased person, are some practices that can be useful in dealing with the loss.

4. Embrace change: a new stage of life

The grief of a loved one transforms us. On the one hand, it provides us with opportunities for growth, since it forces us to go “inside” to process the loss and leads us to review our vital priorities. The loss of a loved one is, in itself, a learning about the way in which we bond with the people we love most; and also, it is a learning in the sense that it forces us to deploy a set of strategies to face such a difficult situation. All these learnings are not forgotten, but rather accumulate in our “backpack” of skills to be more flexible in future situations of change.

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Besides, Grief transforms us and changes us since the loss of a loved one will have meant an impoverishment of our lives in one way or another., and it’s okay to radically recognize and accept it. Grieving a person is an exercise in compassion for ourselves and for those who are also processing this period of change. After the loss of a loved one, life itself changes.

Ultimately, we must be compassionate, not only because the process is very difficult, but also because it is inevitable to go through pain. If it is too painful to grieve the loss of a loved one, a mental health professional can be of great help in navigating this vulnerable time.