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Transcript of Grief
-Queen Elizabeth II
The Price of Love: Grief
A significant loss can be anything. If you lose anything that you love, you will most likely grieve. The following are some examples of triggers for grief:
loss or death of a person
loss or death of an animal
loss of a loved possession
loss of a loved place
loss of a job
loss of your own or your parents' marriage
failure of your own or a loved one's health
Reasons to Grieve
The process of grieving is very different for everyone because everyone handles situations differently. However, there are some differences in the grieving process that have more solid explanations. Two things that change grief regardless of culture or upbringing are age and gender.
Differences in Processes
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the five stages of grief in her book
On Death and Dying
in 1969. These are her five stages of grief broken down and explained.
The Kübler-Ross Model
Culture is an enormous part of grief. Where we're from, who raised us, and what we've been taught to believe contributes to how we grieve. Culture influences how we see death and loss, and how we respond to it. There are many diverse mourning rituals in the cultures around the world.
Humans are not the only beings that grieve. Animals are seen grieving losses often. The following are examples of animals who displayed obvious grief.
"The Price of Love"
Grief is the natural response to significant loss in one's life. Everyone experiences loss, therefore, everyone experiences grief. Even animals grieve.
Grief is completely individual, and there is no right or wrong way to get through the process.
The grieving process differs considerably between children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly. Here the grieving differences between some of the stages of life.
Infants cannot comprehend death. However, they can feel the grief in those around them, especially their caretakers. If their caretaker is the person who dies, they will show differences in behavior. Some of the differences in behavior are as follows:
change in eating habits
change in sleeping habits
Young children may revisit the experience later in developmental stages.
Young children cannot understand the finality of death, but they are curious about it. They may internalize it and believe that they caused it by misbehaving. Regression and fear of abandonment are both common in the grieving process for a young child.
These children can understand that death is final, however, they are less able to express their emotions. Often their emotions are manifest via physical pain. They are also very curious about the biological aspect of death, and may ask a lot of questions.
Teenagers have the same capacity to grieve as adults do. However, they don't know whether to display their sadness like a child, or to act strong and brave like an adult. Most teenagers are afraid to look weak, so they hesitate to ask for help from anyone, and they end up bottling everything up. Death of a loved one can also cause a teenager to question their view of spirituality and their understanding of the world.
Death can also cause an adult to reevaluate their life, think about their own death, and search for meaning in the world.
Grief can cause adults to preoccupy themselves or lose the ability to function entirely for a period of time. It can also change their behavior for a while. Often adults become irritable, restless, numb, and their personalities can change. These symptoms of grief usually last only six months, even though the whole grieving process can last more than two years.
Grief is different for the elderly. They are in a very different place in their lives than everyone else, in that they don't have many things to look forward to in the future. They spend most of their time reflecting on the past.
The amount of deaths in a person's life increases with age, and dealing with multiple deaths at a time can be overwhelming for an elderly person. Elderly people are also experiencing loss of things like occupations, physical abilities, and sometimes mental abilities. Consequently, death of a loved one can be so overwhelming that they are not even able to grieve.
There are enormous differences in the way men and women grieve. Often, men are stereotyped to shut off completely in grief, and women are stereotyped to lose control completely. This is not because women are basket cases and men are stone walls, it is because men and women have different emotional needs.
Disclaimer: not all men and women are like this. Some women grieve like men, and vice versa.
Men typically grieve much more quietly than women do, meaning they don't often express their sadness the way women sometimes expect them to. Some things that should be expected in a man's grief are as follows:
Privacy and solitude
A need to rationalize and make sense of the problem
A focus on the future, rather than the past - it helps them integrate loss into life.
Men are also frequently expected to be a source of strength in times of grief, and this is very harmful to them when they are grieving as much as everyone else. If men are expected not to need help, they will never get help, and will end up alone. So, remember that even though they don't cry as much as women, and they don't talk about their pain as much as women, they do grieve.
Women can be nearly the opposite of men in the grieving process. Here are some of the parts of grief in a woman:
A lot more tears
A lot more words
Need for social support
A focus of energy on the past in order to hold a connection with the loss
As women are more emotional beings, they rely on emotional strength. When they lose an emotional connection, their inner strength loses its stability, and they need something to hold onto while they heal. This is why they look for external support.
Denial and Isolation
Our first response to the news of a loss is denial of its reality. It's very normal to rationalize overwhelming emotions. This is a defense mechanism that softens the immediate shock. Hiding from reality is just a way to carry us through the first wave of pain.
The denial and isolation can only last so long, and when it fades away, we aren't ready. Trying to handle these intense emotions is frustrating and confusing. We begin to look for things to blame. Anything that gets in our way can become a target of our anger. Sometimes we're just angry that things had to change. Very often, we are angry at whatever is causing the grief. We know that we aren't actually angry at whatever or whoever has been lost, but we may feel a lot of resentment towards them for causing us pain.
The bargaining stage is where we try to regain control. This is when we say things like "if only we were nicer to her" or "if only we had talked to a doctor sooner." Sometimes we desperately plea with our higher power to change things, or to postpone the inevitable. This is when we are forced approach reality, but we are desperately trying to look away. This is our weakest defense against reality.
There are two types of depression in grief. The first has a lot to do with very practical things, like financial aspects of the loss, or obligations that we may have neglected in our grief. This can be helped by clarity, reassurance, and maybe some kindness and understanding. The second is quiet and personal. It's when we understand the reality of the situation, and we feel the weight of it in our hearts. This kind of ache will go away with time, and there really isn't a remedy for it. Comfort is usually all we need in this kind of depression.
Acceptance is not a stage that everyone is able to reach. Whether acceptance can be reached or not depends entirely on the person and the circumstances of their loss. This stage is about peace and calm. It isn't a period of happiness, and shouldn't be confused with depression.
When Africans bury their deceased, the mourners go to the family's home, and they wipe the graveyard dust off of their feet at the gate. Some mourners will put pieces of an aloe plant in water to get rid of bad luck.
Widows are expected to mourn for a year, and children who have lost a parent are expected to mourn for three months.
Some families follow a strict mourning ritual. The men shave their heads and faces to symbolize death and new life. Some family members wear black clothes or black cloths on their backs for weeks, or even as long as a year.
During a family's time of grieving, no cooking is allowed in the house until the cremation has taken place. There is a saying that the fire in the house isn't lit until the fire in the cremation pyre has gone out. Friends will bring foods that are considered "pure". These foods include vegetarian dishes made without onion or garlic.
According to traditional Navajo beliefs, birth, life, and death are part of an ongoing cycle, and that it's the natural course of things. It is uncommon to see any outward demonstrations of grief at a Navajo burial. It isn't that they don't care; they believe that too much display of emotion can interrupt the spirit's journey into the next world. If the process is interrupted, they believe that the spirit could attach itself to a place, object, or person.
Elephants are generally very emotional creatures, however, grief is probably their most moving display of emotion. Years after a loved one has died, elephants will stop to remember and mourn their death. Upon passing the place where a loved one has died, they will stop and mourn in silence for several minutes.
Researchers have reported mother elephants going through a period of despondency after a calf has died, falling behind the herd for several days.
They’ve also witnessed an elephant herd circling a dead companion disconsolately. After some time, and likely when they realized the elephant was dead, the family members broke off branches, tore grass clumps and dropped these on the carcass.
Primates have been observed to grieve on several occasions. Jane Goodall wrote in her book
Through a Window
about a Chimpanzee named Flint whose mother died. Flint withdrew from his group, stopped eating, and died from a broken heart next to the spot where his mother died.
At a zoo in Munster, Germany, a gorilla named Gana lost her baby, Claudio. She held him for five days after his death and seemed confused at his unresponsiveness. She held him up like a doll, wondering why he hung limp. The grief in her countenance was heartbreaking, and made witnesses of it cry.
Jim and Jamie Dutcher, founders of the non-profit organization "Living With Wolves", observed grief in a wolf pack when low-ranking omega female wolf, Motaki, was killed by a mountain lion. The pack stopped howling together, but rather they "sang alone in a slow mournful cry." At the place where Motaki was killed, the pack inspected the area with their ears pinned back and their tails dropped, a gesture that usually means submission. They became depressed, and it took them six weeks to return to normal.
Grief is everywhere. It's everywhere because it must be. However, it stays only as long as it is held on to. It will run its course, but beyond that, it is the griever that prolongs its effects. Grief is completely inherent to nature, and it should not be feared. Grief is, in a way, a blessing. It is a testament to the spectrum of emotion that allows us, not just as humans, but as simply living beings, to live fully.
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