Dealing with grief

Published December 22, 2021, 12:03 AM

by Rikki Mathay


What a year it has been with so much loss and grief from circumstances beyond our control such as the pandemic. As we start to say goodbye to a tumultuous 2021, we can’t help but prepare ourselves to say goodbye to the sorrows that pained us one way or the other with each New Year promising a fresh start.

But the reality is, grieving is not as easy. It won’t come easy just because the calendar has been flipped.

Grief is the heart and brain’s natural response to loss – any loss from a relationship breakup or friendship, death of loved one even of a pet, and loss of income.

The pain caused by a  loss of something or someone cherished and loved can feel so unbearable it goes beyond the emotions and can feel as painful as a physical illness can bring, aside from its actual effects on the physical health with loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and even the inability to think.

The more significant the loss is, the deeper the grief, and despite all the articles you may have read before about the stages of grief, grieving is a personal experience and your process depends on the circumstances that led to the loss.

There is no set time table. There is no right and wrong way to grieve, but losing someone or something inevitably leads to this debilitating state. But in any process of grieving, the first step is to acknowledge your pain. You may cry buckets of tears or not even shed a tear but whichever way you acknowledge your pain, it does not invalidate your suffering.

It is said that every person goes through grief at least once in his or her lifetime, and as heart wrenching as it is, there are ways to help you cope so you may eventually reach a resolution how to move forward.

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross states in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying,” the five most common stages of the grieving process after studying her patients:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

This study was made among Kübler-Ross’ terminally ill patients but was later on expanded to include the other types of grief. While others go through these stages, do not feel it is abnormal if you skip a stage or two or even all altogether. Remember that grieving is an individual process depending on your personality and the situation.

Different psychiatrists recommend different coping mechanisms but the common variable is that you find a support group whether it is among trusted family or friends.

If you are this friend or family member whom the aggrieved has entrusted to listen to him or her, it is imperative as well to remember that your primary role is to listen, do not pass judgment and not even push your own advice particularly if this involves the loss of a relationship as you should bear in mind that there are variables you may not fully understand. Allowing your grieving friend to vent out is what matters most at that point.

But at the end of the day,  it will really be up to you how you will choose to move forward – whether you fight it and actually take real steps to reclaim what you have lost if it is something you believe you cannot live without, or simply accept the loss at the end.

If you are grieving right now, learn to determine if it is not depression, and if it is, then it is not an embarrassment to seek out psychological support from professionals.

The National Center for Mental Health and the Department of Health offers free and confidential services via their hotlines 0917-899 8727 and 02-898-98727.