Sunday, February 25, 2007

Understanding Grief

This is my hip. It has been like this since November 30th. I was a very happy and active person and over time I could feel my hip get older and older until it eventually gave out. Thanks to modern medicine I will be able to resume my active lifestyle without pain.

This blog is not about me though, I do not want you to feel sorry for me, what I want to do is to educate you on the 5 stages of grief because we all will go through them as well as deal with someone who is grieving.

Understand this; we all are in the business of making those around us better, like it or not, because it makes our lives easier as well as improves our self-worth. In order to accomplish this it is essential that we understand what is going on in the lives of those around us so we know when to push them, sympathize with them, or when to let them be. One common situation we will all encounter at some point in our lives is to deal with someone who is in grief, ourselves included, and we need to know the signs in order to continue to fully understand what that person is going through. Without understanding the signs of grief, or choosing to ignore them, we will never be able to truly make others better.

Grief (noun); the cause of intense, deep, and profound sorrow, especially a specific event or situation.

Grief is mostly associated with personal loss. This could be in the form of death, but also relates to the loss of a job, a child going to college, divorce or breakup, and in my case a surgery and the loss of lifestyle. The thing is that grief is specific to each person and while some may not feel any emotion with a situation, others will grieve. What we as friends, colleagues, employers, and family members need to know is what and why the people around us are grieving for. It isn’t until we do this that we can attempt to understand how to deal with their behavior.

The 5 Stages of Grief are:
Denial – we deny that this is even happening to us and don’t accept the reality of the situation that we are in. By denying our reality we don’t have to deal with the pending consequences of the situation.

Anger – “why is this happening to me”? We have finally realized what our reality is and become angry about the situation. This anger is played out internally as well as externally, but isn’t always obvious as it can be passive as well.

Bargaining – this is where we begin to make deals for a better personal outcome. This usually happens before the loss occurs.

Depression – this is where we feel an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, mostly because we no longer have control over the situation. Again, this is not always external and obvious.

Acceptance – this is where we finally take personal responsibility for the situation and look to make it better, not bearable, better. By regaining control of our lives we then seek ways to make it better.

We will all grieve at some point in our lives and we will need to go through these 5 steps. I have gone through mine and in May I will be able to run again, therefore completing my grief cycle. As hard as they are to go through, they are easier to tackle when you have someone who is sympathetic to your loss. Simply saying that it is the past and you need to move forward is not advice enough, and in reality is a disservice to the person in grief.

Since we all at swimupstream are in the business of people, it is our job to find out how to guide someone through their grief. Yes, sometimes a kick in the butt is essential, but more essential than that is meeting the person at their grieving point and then traveling with them through the 5 stages. Letting them feel the extreme sorrow while guiding them, not pushing them, to the light at the end of the tunnel is our only option. We make people feel better about themselves, and because of that we need to understand the individual differences people have. Then, and only then, can we truly help a person. There is no cookie cutter approach when it comes to self-efficacy.

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