Grief, Resiliency, Recovery
by Ruth McKercher, Psy.D.
Most of us experience various forms of loss during our lifetime. If you are reading this article you are probably someone who has lost a loved one, friend or acquaintance to suicide. The Harvard Medical Journal describes grief as intense sadness stemming from loss. It is a process that follows bereavement which is defined as the loss or death of someone or something important. Grief is not only the sorrow you feel; grief also includes such feelings as numbness, anger, guilt, despair, irritability, relief, and anxiety.
Grief affects both our mind and body. The journal reports a surge in ailments such as colds and, even, more serious illness following a loss. Children in particular may process grief by presenting complaints such as headaches, stomachaches, dizziness or racing heart. Grief is a process.
Most of us are familiar with the stages of grief proposed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:
· Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
· Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
· Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
· Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.
· Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.
· Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.
· Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward.
She proposed that we all follow certain patterns as we process a loss. As you can see from the graph below we gradually, overtime, come to an acceptance of our loss.
Complicated grief or traumatic grief may follow an untimely, unexpected death such as suicide and a longer healing process may follow such a loss. It is known that the more resiliency a person possesses the faster they will recover from adversity. So what is resiliency? How do I get some?
Resiliency can be described as a process of positive adaptation following an adverse event. The adverse event for most of us was suicide. As reported on Wikipedia, the American Psychological Association suggests ten ways to build resilience:
1. Maintain close relationships with family members, friends and others
2. Avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems
3. Accept circumstances that are cannot be changed
4. Develop realistic goals and move towards them.
5. Take decisive actions in adverse situations
6. Look for opportunities of self discovery after a struggle with loss
7. Develop self- confidence
8. Keep a long term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context
9. Maintain a hopeful outlook
10. Take care of mind and body
As we build resiliency we maximize the possibility that we will recover with acceptance, thus, completing the stages of grief. However, for many recovery is a personal journey, an ongoing process that may involve developing hope, a secure sense of self, supportive relationships, a feeling of empowerment, social inclusion, coping skills and meaning.
We will soon be offering a group for individuals who have passed the one year anniversary of loss from suicide. It will be the purpose of this group to continue to develop skills for resiliency and recovery. It is my hope that these skills will add to the quality of our regular support groups.