Pause For Grief

24 Jul, 2021 14:22 IST|Sakshi Post

Do not scramble to “get back on track” by projecting a strong, stoic self to the world. 

Feelings of survivor guilt, feelings that you could have done more, or done it differently, and being plagued by “what if” scenarios, are natural. Pay attention, but do not be consumed by these guilt feelings.

Acknowledge the situation and express your concern. When conveyed sincerely, “I am so sorry for your loss”, can communicate your heartfelt expression without minimizing it.

By Mrudula Akki

Never in recent times have we encountered so much collective grief as in the last few months. While we are no strangers to grief, the pandemic has challenged the way we grieve. Nearly everyone is dealing with loss –loss of a loved one, loss of employment, loss of financial stability, and the loss of our understanding of the world and the systems we had in place that gave us a sense of security and control.

During COVID times, the loss of a loved one is sudden, and families do not have the comfort of being by the ailing member’s side. This loss is further compounded by our inability to carry out the customary, cultural rituals designed to give us a sense of closure and coming to terms with the loss and grief.

As we attempt to deconstruct the process of grieving, it is essential to understand that grief is our way of looking inward and readjusting to the inevitability of the changes that have taken place. It is thus, important to allow feelings of sadness and grief. How can we do this?

  • Identify your loss. After a major loss, you may be undergoing feelings of numbness. Do not try to fight it, as being numb allows us to come to terms with the loss, one little bit at a time.

  • Admit your pain. Experiencing pain after a loss is a normal part of our attachments and relationships. Refusing to accept that you are hurting, will not lessen the pain, but will prolong the suffering.

  • Accepting your feelings. We are usually overcome by feelings of fear, anger, heartbreak, despair, sadness, guilt, and an overwhelming sense of chaos. These feelings are expected and normal reactions to loss. It is important to name and claim the grief, by articulating, accepting, and sharing these feelings.

  • Be gentle with yourself. Accept that you are vulnerable, and do not scramble to “get back on track” by projecting a strong, stoic self to the world. Heal at your own pace, as each one has their own manner of dealing with grief, and there are no right or wrong ways to experience it.

  • Don’t be overwhelmed by guilt. Feelings of survivor guilt, feelings that you could have done more, or done it differently, and being plagued by “what if” scenarios, are natural. Pay attention, but do not be consumed by these guilt feelings, and allow them to direct your choices and decisions as you cope with the loss.

On the other hand, knowing how to help, what to say, and how to interact with a friend or family member who is grieving can be incredibly difficult too. It is normal to be afraid of saying the wrong thing and making them feel alienated or misunderstood. Here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t avoid talking about the loss. Reassure the person that you are comfortable with whatever they want to talk about.

  • Acknowledge the situation and express your concern. When conveyed sincerely, “I am so sorry for your loss”, can communicate your heartfelt expression without minimizing it.

  • Be willing to listen and simply keep company. “I am here for you” can be profound in showing empathy and being present in their grief.

  • Talking about the departed person can be extremely comforting to the grieving individual as it is a source of joy and reassurance that others are also thinking about the individual.

  • “I am here to help in any way I can”, allows the grieving person to express their emotions without judgment or criticism. Provide a safe place for them to open up and be vulnerable.

Avoid saying clichéd statements to a person in grief, such as:

  • “God has a plan.” or “They're in a better place now.”

  • “Everything happens for a reason.” or “It was meant to be.”

  • “At least….”

  • “You need to move on.”

  • “You don’t look like you are grieving.”

Instead, just be there. Listen to them, and help them share. As we face loss, it becomes important to accept what we cannot change.

(The author is a consultant psychologist based out of Hyderabad.)

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