The simple answer is no. Grief is a complex process and a healthy reaction after a loss. There are ways to help lessen the burden of losing a loved one and the stress that can accompany it through end-of-life planning.
Loss and its impact
Loss impacts everyone differently, as no two grief reactions are the same. Grief is the physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, and social experiences regarding the loss. Grief reactions are based on factors like age, gender, ethnicity, faith, coping style, attachment, and cause of death. Most importantly, grief is a complex but normal and healthy response to loss.
Understanding the grief process through models
A popular model for understanding the grief process that you may have heard of is the Kubler-Ross Model, with five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While this model is helpful for some, grief is not a linear process. Some newer models for understanding the grieving process include the Continuing-Bond Model, which says that during the bereavement period (time initially after a loss), the bereaved seek a new way of relating to the deceased. In this model, grieving is never fully resolved but instead involves a continuing negotiation of the meaning of the loss over time. In the Meaning-Making Model, Niemeyer and colleagues recognized the idea that death challenges people’s assumptions about the world. From death can come new meaning, and stories can be rewritten into positive adaptations.
Whatever model of grief resonates with you, know that they are there to help explain the journey through grief and why it may be challenging as loss and change are prominent.
When to get help for your grief
When a grieving person realizes that their grief is interfering with their daily functioning, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional for help navigating the unique challenges they are experiencing.
How to grieve a good grief
There really is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is a unique process for each person, and what works for some may not work for others. Some ways are beneficial in helping many people grieve the loss of a loved one once they were ready to include:
· Talk about the loss
· Find new activities that bring you joy
· Reach out to your support system
· Read books on the topic of grief
· Discuss with others how they coped with previous losses
· Keep a grief journal
· Create a memorial collage
· Attend a grief/loss support group
· Explore negative feelings associated with the loss
· Offer yourself forgiveness if necessary
· Write a letter to the deceased sharing fond memories or painful ones
· Engage in activities that celebrate the positive memories you have of the deceased
· Establish a grieving ritual that you can engage in near the anniversary of the loss
While losing a loved one is never easy, there are ways to make it less stressful. Many people have different reasons why they chose not to engage in the end-of-life planning process from reasons like “it’s too soon, “I don’t want to offend my loved one,” or “I have no idea what is important to talk about.” New research is coming out that challenges these fears and suggests that most of our aging family members want us to bring up this topic with them and are happy when we engage in conversations regarding end-of-life planning. Caring.com has an excellent resource for discussing plans and costs.
Please reach out to a mental health professional if you are struggling to navigate the grieving process.
Brittany Soule, Clinical Mental Health Counseling Student Intern