Loss and Mourning

“Loss is the price of living. Extraordinary rent payable during your stay.” A. Dillard

What is mourning?

Grief is only thought of as a response to great losses such as death. Whereas, mourning, the psychological response to any loss or change, is the whole of the compromises we make to achieve harmony between our inner world and outer reality. Grief means acknowledging that one is always vulnerable to loss, to betrayal, but also to the end of one’s boundaries and life. What is lost can be a family heirloom necklace, or it can be a person we place in our lives, a friendship, a homeland, a lover, a hope. Every loss plunges us into inevitable grief and can revive all past losses.

Why is it necessary to mourn?

The course of our lives depends on our ability to adapt to loss and use change as a tool for growth. Grief allows us to let go of attachments and habits that no longer really work, thus facilitating our growth and development. Freud (1913) defined the purpose of mourning as: “The purpose of mourning is to separate the memories and hopes of the survivor from the memories and hopes associated with the deceased.” Losses not fully mourned; in other words, changes we cannot adapt to; it casts a shadow on our lives, swallows our energy and makes it difficult for us to keep up with today. Those who cannot grieve may also not be able to maintain long-term bonds of love. Either they hold on too tight or they don’t hold on tight enough. Every loss, if fully mourned, can be a vehicle for growth and regeneration. When we truly grieve, we learn more about ourselves and about being human. Loss is a painful gift.

What are the stages of grieving?

Basically, there are 4 phases.

Stage 1: In this stage, which can vary from a few hours to a few weeks, the person has difficulty grasping the reality of death. They may be confused, dull and unresponsive in the face of their experiences. During this period, physical symptoms such as difficulty in remembering and shortness of breath, knots in the throat, dry mouth, loss of strength, and feeling of emptiness in the stomach can be seen.

Stage 2: The person feels the pain of the loss more and more, experiences intense sadness and longing, searches for the deceased person, and cries. Anger, restlessness, fear and excitement, difficulty concentrating, and reluctance towards things that are interesting and enjoyable can be seen. The mind is preoccupied with the deceased and with death. This phase can last for days or weeks.

3. Stage: With the realization of the fact that the loss will not return, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness arise.

Stage 4: With the acceptance of the certainty of death and its consequences over the months, the intensity of one’s feelings of longing and sadness gradually decreases. While the memories of the deceased are not lost, the person returns to the state before the loss, reorganizes his life, and regains hopes and plans for the future.

When does the grieving work end?

Everyone grieves at varying speeds and intensity. A normal grieving process usually takes a period of one to two years. But a loss can always be revived and hurt again. For example, on anniversaries of death, grief may recur. Therefore, we can only speak of a practical end to grief. Practically, grief is over when we no longer remember, repeat, or emotionally respond to thoughts of loss every day.

What impairs the ability to grieve?

There are roughly four factors that impair the ability to grieve. The first is the emotional nature of the person. People whose childhood needs are not adequately met or who have suffered a series of losses may have difficulty grieving. The second factor has to do with the nature of the lost relationship. It is more difficult to leave a relationship that is overly dependent or burdened with unfinished business. The third factor is related to the conditions of the loss. If someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly, it is more difficult to accept that death. The last factor is the restrictions placed on the expression of grief in today’s world. The ability to grieve can be thought of as physical wound healing. How quickly we physically repair depends on the depth and characteristics of the cut. The same is true for grief.

What happens if it can’t be mourned?

The grieving process is complete when the individual adequately transfers his or her energy to life outside the loss. This points to the functionality of the grieving process. However, if the process loses its functionality or develops outside of the expected, pathological grief is mentioned. Due to its different findings and forms in clinical practice, it is named in different ways such as abnormal grief, complicated grief, unresolved grief, masked grief, chronic grief, and delayed grief. They are pathological reactions that develop when the individual cannot complete the grieving process as a result of being stuck in one of the normal stages of grief. Grieving is a state of constant mourning, staying at one point without moving forward. The pain after loss deepens and intensifies.

Is it necessary to seek professional help in the grieving process?

It is usually not necessary to seek help from a professional in the normal grieving process. Mostly, sufficient social support facilitates this process. In the presence of pathological signs of grief, it is imperative to seek help in order to complete the grief in a healthy way. If you observe one or more of the following situations in yourself or your relative, even though it has been a long time since the loss, it means that you need professional help:

Denying or suppressing the loss for a long time, as in the early days,

Having very extreme and intense emotional reactions when talking about the loss

Running away from everyone and everything that reminds them of the loss,

Making big changes that will change the life after the loss,

Using the present tense when talking about the deceased as if he were alive

Resisting to keep the lost person’s belongings for a long time,

Raising the issue of loss frequently or not mentioning it in daily conversations,

Difficulty in performing normal life functions after the loss,

Experiencing intense fears of illness or death for a long time

Behaviors such as substance or alcohol use and resorting to violence,

Giving extreme mourning reactions on the anniversary of the loss,

Not going to the grave and avoiding religious rituals.

How do children grieve?

Children should be told clearly what will happen in their daily lives after the loss. The remaining parents and other family members should reduce the child’s anxiety about these life changes. In the normal grieving process, children may feel guilty. Therefore, it should be emphasized that the loss experienced is independent of his behavior and that he is not responsible. It is very important for those left behind to share their own feelings that developed after the loss. It is difficult for children to cope with intense emotions after the loss of a loved one. In children and adolescents, mourning reactions develop in line with their developmental stages. Some bedwetting, thumb sucking, etc. while others may exhibit outbursts of anger and risky behaviors. In addition, children’s understanding of the concept of death varies according to the level of cognitive development. It is necessary to pay attention to these characteristics when answering the questions of children during the bereavement. Misperceptions or comments that are not appropriate for the situation should be corrected properly.

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