Handling losses — grief process

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Family Matters

By Sam George

Today we begin a new series on grief. Inevitably we all will face some kind of loss throughout our life span and each of us will grieve differently. The kind of loss, our cultural background, our personality and emotional connection with the loss will determine how we process loss. Every loss causes some kind of tear on our soul.

Losses are Inexorable in human experiences. But how we handle loss will determine our inner health — mental, emotional and spiritual. Unexpected loss and unexplainable losses can have devastating effects on normal life and relationships. Ques-tions about loss generally seem to linger in our mind much longer and inner peace could be disturbed when the grieving process is not taken up properly.

Grief is our response to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Losses can range from loss of employment, pets, status, a sense of safety, order, or possessions, to the loss of loved ones. Most common is the death of a loved one, whether it be a friend, family, or other companion. It could include premature death, miscarriage or loss of skill or ability.

Feelings of guilt, whether legitimate or not, are pervasive, and the dependent nature of the relationship disposes parents to a variety of problems as they seek to cope with a loss of a child. Parents who suffer miscarriage or abortion may experience resentment towards others who experience successful pregnancies.

Our response to loss can be as distinct as each one of us. Our responses are influenced by personality, family, culture, spiritual and religious beliefs and practices. Also, our support system will determine the kind of response and recovery we might have through a loss. Though death after prolonged illness can prepare a loved one for the eventual loss, facing death is never easy for anyone.

An immediate reaction to any kind of loss is denial.  We want to believe that “it never happened” and we want to rest in its comfort. But that is not helpful. We must have the inner courage to face the reality no matter how severe it is or how painful it may be. Rejecting the actual reality or wanting to recreate a world without that loss, when it is nearly impossible is seldom of any help. Some loss bears a lifelong process. One does not get “over” the loss but instead must assimilate and live with the death. Intervention and comforting support can make all the difference to the survival of a parent in this type of grief but the risk factors are great and may include family breakup or suicide.

In the intensity of grief emotions irrational decisions are often made. In the event of an abortion or miscarriage, it is important for friends and family members to acknowledge the loss of the pregnancy, and not to attempt to minimize the significance of a pregnancy that did not come to term.

While some who grieve are able to work through their loss themselves, accessing additional support from licensed psychologists or psychiatrists may promote the process of healing. Grief counseling, professional support groups or educational classes, and peer-led support groups are helpful to the bereaved. Do not try to “get over” serious losses yourself, get professional help.

Sam George is the executive director of Parivar International, a non-profit initiative to address the needs of youth and families of Asian Indian origin in North America.  Sam is the author of the book “Understanding the Coconut Generation” (www.CoconutGeneration.com). He can be reached at sam@coconutgeneration.com

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