The coronavirus-induced pandemic has affected over 16.6 crore people worldwide and over 34.5 lakh deaths to date. Of which, India constitutes about 2.63 crore cases and about 2.96 lakhs dead which means three lakh or more families’ lives were upended with no plausible reasoning to make sense of the unexpected loss. The sudden passing affects you, even more, considering the ambiguity of the situation – not being able to be there, not enough resources for their rescue, being separated from the family are just some facts that only add to the grief. The vacuum only tends to keep growing.
Nothing can answer to the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ – it seems like your life came to a jolting halt from where there is no looking back. That said, each person has his/her way of adapting to the loss.
According to a study by The Center for Complicated Grief, Columbia School of Social Work, “There are three key processes entailed in adapting to a loss:
1) Accepting the reality, including the finality and consequences of the loss.
2) Reconfiguring the internalised relationship with the deceased person to incorporate this reality.
3) Envisioning ways to move forward with a sense of purpose and meaning and possibilities for happiness. Most people move forward naturally in this way and grief finds a place in their lives as they do.”
Five Stages Of Grief
Grief and mourning come differently to different people emanating responses ranging from shock, guilt, denial, depression, or profound sadness. The reaction varies depending on the personality type, coping mechanism, experiences, and conditioning. “Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross introduced ‘five stages of grief”. Though these studies were about patients facing terminal illness, these stages are now generalised to other types of losses such as loss of loved ones,” says Garima Juneja, counselor, and psychologist, and founder of Lightroom Therapy & Counseling.
“The five stages of grief are denial – to deny whatever has transpired; anger – the feeling of why it has happened, why me?; bargaining – it wouldn’t have happened if I would have done this or that, the would(s) and should(s) of the situation; depression – profound sadness which lingers for a while coupled with Anhedonia (giving up of hobbies or activities which were earlier resorted to) and; acceptance – acknowledging the loss and making peace with it, learning to let go.” Although it is not necessary that one goes through every stage in the sequential order, these emotions are bound to be experienced post-loss. “Dealing with grief is a natural process. It will follow the natural progression, which may be different in different cases. In any scenario, the last stage of acceptance helps to come to terms with reality,” adds Juneja.
There could be times when you hold yourself responsible for the loss or think of thousand other ways you could have prevented it from happening. These emotions and possible alternate realities will only scrape through your wounds and make you feel responsible for the loss. Compassion can help you through the grieving process. “Self-compassion leads to better emotional coping ability,” says Dr Anuneet Sabharwal, psychiatrist, founder, and director, The Happy Tree – Deaddiction and Mental Health Hospital. “Set boundaries for yourself, have compassion for yourself and others around you. Practise positive self-talk and treat yourself how would treat a friend. Being kind to yourself could seem difficult but that is the need of the hour.”
Guilt is an inevitable feeling especially when you confront the loss of a loved one. The tendency to find faults in our efforts to save our loved ones generally surfaces. It is an individualistic tendency, so it differs from one person to another. “Feelings like we never spent that much time with the deceased, showered him/her with gifts or never gave special attention while they were healthy and hearty,” adds Juneja. “The act of repentance gives rise to guilt. It can be self-sabotaging, so accepting the reality and consciously not getting into the blame game can save a person from the collapse of self-worth. Learning from a situation instead should be the takeaway for the future. Taking professional help also is the first step towards healing.”
Get Back To Normalcy
Along with acceptance and giving away the guilt, one must learn how to deal with the roller coaster life that comes along while handling grief. Bottling up emotions may lead to bursting out later on or getting secluded. Both ways represent unfruitful repercussions. In such conditions, therapy helps. “It has been seen that some people go into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the sudden death of a loved one. Many find it difficult to process the loss and get depressed, and others might find it difficult to resume normal life even after a year or so,” shares Juneja. “Therapy helps in guiding people towards acceptance and makes them come out even stronger to fight with the adversities of life by lending them purpose or through closure. It’s a beautiful process of metamorphosis. One can start with the counseling any time after the incident as therapy has no side effects, it may speed up the process of healing and can be constructive as it also works on the personality traits and patterns.” Rationalising the situation gives you closure which is a necessary part of letting go and moving on.
It may seem like the time has stood still and nothing will be better thereon. Keep faith. After every dusk, comes dawn and as Stephen Fry once said, it will all be sunny one day!