5 Important Things to Recognize About Grief

Posted on August 18, 2015 by Deb Wood, PhD, CEAP; Senior Consultant

Everyday there are people who are dealing with the loss of someone they love. Understanding the process facing individuals who have experienced the loss of a significant person in their life is critical both for the individual who experienced the loss and for those around the individual — whether they are family members, friends, coworkers or managers.

1. Grief and Bereavement are Not the Same Thing

Grief is a feeling or emotion experienced by people when there is the loss of someone significant. But people also feel grief when they lose something important them, for example, the loss of a job, health, pet or a divorce. The feeling of grief is extreme immediately after the loss while a person learns to cope with the loss gradually.

Oftentimes the term bereavement and grief are used synonymously, but there is an important difference between grief and bereavement. Bereavement is the state of being in grief. There are different stages of bereavement; the bereavement process involves accepting the loss, coping with it, and learning to live and carry on with life. On the other hand, grief is an individual’s emotional response. In other words, grief is the starting point of the bereavement process.

2. Navigating the 5 Stages of Grief is a Unique Experience for Each Individual

In her book “On Death and Dying”, Elisabeth Kübler Ross wrote about 5 stages of grief. These include:

  1. Denial—this is the stage where the loss has occurred, but you aren’t able to process it, so instead, you just deny the death has occurred.
  2. Bargaining—this is the stage where you begin to bargain and say things like, “f this isn’t happening, I will go to church everyday or be nice all the time.”
  3. Depression—this is the stage where feelings of sadness or hopelessness begin. Symptoms are often inability to sleep or sleeping too much, decrease or increase in appetite, distancing from others, listlessness and inability to concentrate. This is a normal stage of grief; however, if you find the depressive feelings are lasting for more than 2-3 weeks, it may be a good idea to seek professional help or a support group.
  4. Anger—this is the stage where anger begins to rear its head. Anger can present in many ways, such as irritability, brusqueness, intolerance of others and temper flare ups. The anger stage is difficult because the grieving person doesn’t know who to be angry with and will often feel guilty if they experience feelings of anger toward the deceased.
  5. Acceptance—this is the stage where the grieving person has finally accepted the loss of their loved one. This stage doesn’t mean the bereavement is over; remember this is just the beginning of moving on with life.

The stages of grief are different for everyone. They last different lengths of time and do not follow a linear path, so a person may feel anger first and then denial, or they may go back and forth between stages. The key is to have patience if you are grieving or dealing with a person who is grieving.

3. The Length of the Bereavement Process is Different for Everyone

Bereavement is the process where the grieving person begins moving on with life. The length of the bereavement process is different for everyone, but generally can last a few months to a few years. The length of the bereavement process is dependent upon many factors, including how close the deceased was to the person grieving, how resilient the individual is and the length of time the death was anticipated. Often, a prolonged death process causes more grief. Bereavement requires acceptance of the facts: the loss is real and the person who has passed will not come back. The grieving person has to learn to adjust to life without their loved one.

4. Grief and Bereavement are Normal

A critical thing to remember about grief and bereavement is they are normal parts of loss and each person goes through this journey in different ways and with different time frames. It is important for the person who is grieving to be patient with himself or herself and to reach out for help when needed. Support from people who have been through this experience is often very helpful. It is important for individuals close to the person grieving to be patient and to understand there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss.

5. There are Many Resources Available

There are many resources available to help and provide guidance when dealing with grief and loss. Here are a few options for resources to help individuals, and their support network, manage grief and loss.

Grief Watch Resources
Grief Watch offers a list of bereavement related resources available to assist you or someone in your care.

Hello Grief Resources
Hello Grief provides information and resources about grief in order to break through the current culture of avoidance surrounding death and loss. Instead, Hello Grief addresses bereavement head-on for those who are helping others cope, as well as those who need support on their own personal journey with grief.

We Can Help

When you, a loved one or an employee are dealing with grief, VITAL WorkLife is here to help. Your VITAL WorkLife EAP benefit includes free and confidential professional support services —24 hours a day, 365 days per year—to help you and your family members address a wide range of situations, including grief and loss, depression, stress, anxiety, anger, marital or relationship issues, legal and financial problems and more. Members can access your EAP resources by calling 800.383.1908 or through your VITAL WorkLife App

About VITAL WorkLife

VITAL WorkLife, Inc.™ is a national behavioral health consulting company providing support to individuals facing life’s challenges, while also assisting organizations in improving workplace productivity. We have deep experience in healthcare, especially assisting physicians and providers in dealing with the challenges in their profession. This approach of helping employees and their families, while also guiding organizations, builds healthy, sustainable behaviors. For over 30 years, we have offered industry leading Employee Assistance Programs, specialized support, training and consulting for a wide variety of industries. VITALWorkLife.com.

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