Almost every day, Anamika, an independent- minded working woman in her 30s, tells her friends about how her marriage has become a living hell. Her husband is abusive and unconcerned about her. She has been thinking about walking out on him for the past five years, but has not yet been able to take even the first step.
The solution looks pretty simple: she should separate from her husband and move on. But since she is unable to do that, it's quite possible that Anamika is actually grieving over the loss of her idea of a " happily ever after". We generally associate grief with loss, in the form of the death of a loved one. But grief can be the outcome of various kinds of losses, like what Anamika is going through, or retirement, loss of job, selling and moving house, loss of a dream or, for that matter, any kind of change. The intensity of our emotions depends on how significant the loss is to us personally.
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler Ross described the process of loss as going though five stages:
Denial is refusing to acknowledge that a particular situation has occurred. " This is not real/ permanent" is the dominant thought. People go about their lives as though nothing has changed for them. In case the loss involves the death of a loved one, we may avoid acknowledging it completely.
The intensity of the pain of loss comes out as anger, which may be directed at oneself, at loved ones or even God! Anamika might feel, " I deserve to suffer as I fell in love with this person". Severe manifestation of this feeling could be self- harm and self destructiveness.
If it's directed at the husband, the thought could be, " I will stay in this marriage and make him suffer just as he has made me suffer." Or it could be: " God created this and now He will sort this out for me." Anger often creates deep resentments if not healed. It can cloud our judgement and take us away from reality.
In this stage, we try and hold on to the situation as we see it. And we are willing to pay a price too. So, there maybe an attempt to strike a deal with God: " If you make it go away, then I will…" Anamika might mentally agree to quit her job " as a price" since that was what had " kept me from giving full attention to my husband".
A sense of hopelessness takes over in this stage. Often one experiences intense sadness. Lack of motivation to do anything is common. This is a stage when one
might need a friend, not to give advice, but just to lend an ear or a shoulder... to reach out. In this stage, talking and expressing the sadness helps. One might not be able to take an active step but the mourning actually helps as a preparation to accept the reality.
This is the stage when one is ready for a resolution.
There is an acceptance of the loss.
One makes peace with what has happened. It does not mean that we are happy, but that we have reached an inner calm. This is the most empowered state, where one can rationally choose the next step.
There is more focus on " what needs to be done" than " why it happened".
People who are grieving typically have good days and bad days. The important thing to remember is that it is normal and all right to feel the way you are feeling. And that it will get better.
We all have our own ways of expressing grief and they are all right. It is also possible to resolve grief without going through any of these stages. Just try to be in touch with the reality of " what is". The late poet Maya Angelou had said: " We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through." The secret of healing lies in allowing and admitting the changes.
Saturday, 31 May 2014
Loss and Grief : T2 article Dated 1st June 2014.