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Grief Awareness and Appreciation
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Grieving is an individual process by which one transitions from numbness and disbelief to acceptance and letting go. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross originally described five stages of grief. Barry M. Kinzbrunner, Neal J. Weinreb, and Joel S. Policzersome, in "Common Problems: End of Life Care" have describe four distinct phases:

1. Numbness – This is the phase immediately following a loss. The grieving person feels numb, which is a defense mechanism that allows them to survive emotionally.

2. Searching and Yearning – This can also be referred to as pining and is characterized by the grieving person longing or yearning for the deceased to return. Many emotions are expressed during this time and may include weeping, anger, anxiety, and confusion.

3. Disorganization and Despair – The grieving person now desired to withdraw and disengage from others and activities they regularly enjoyed. Feelings of pining and yearning become less intense while periods of apathy, meaning an absence of emotion, and despair increase.

4. Reorganization and Recovery – In this final phase, the grieving person begins to return to a new state of “normal”. Weight loss experienced during intense grieving may be regained, energy levels increase, and an interest to return to activities of enjoyment returns. Grief never ends but thoughts of sadness and despair are diminished while positive memories of the deceased take over.

Because everyone grieves in their own way at their own pace, there is no timeline for completion of these phases Receiving bereavement counseling and joining bereavement support groups can help the grieving individual move through the phases fluidly. The tasks to move through these four phases are:

1. Accept the Reality of the Loss – Coming full face with the reality that the person is dead and will not return is the first task that needs to be completed. Without accomplishing this, the grieving person will not be able to continue through the mourning process.

2. Work Through the Pain – Grief is painful, physically and emotionally. It is important to acknowledge the pain and not suppress it.

3. Adjust to the New Environment in Which the Deceased is Missing – This may require adjusting to the roles that the deceased once carried out. If it is a spouse that has died, it required the bereaved to accept their new identity as a widow.

4. Emotionally Relocate the Deceased and Move On – While the bereaved will never be compelled to totally give up on the relationship, the goal is to find an appropriate place in their emotional lives for the deceased. This requires a letting go of attachments so new relationships can begin to form. Completing these tasks will help the bereaved come to terms with their loss and return to a new state of normalcy.
Help is Available
Bereavement counseling is available to help. Many churches, synagogues and hospitals have grief support groups and can refer you to local resources. Also check out the link "grief support resources" above.

Palliative care and hospice programs integrate bereavement care into their comprehensive approach to care. Take advantage of the services they have to offer you.
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