Personal growth through grief

The loss of a loved one is a hard thing to go through, but it cannot be avoided. Death is the most significant break we are exposed to as people, but it is not the only one. Dr. Sanz García, an expert in Psychiatry, talks about the importance of grief and its contribution to personal growth.

Grief, which refers to the loss of something very significant for the person, is another type of vital fracture to which we are exposed and which shocks us. Grief has some common aspects: physical separations with loved ones, breakage of a sentimental relationship, chosen emigration or forced exile, loss of job or economic status, deterioration of physical health, existential challenges of vital growth, experiencing a natural disaster,…

Manifestations of grief

Losses leave a void in the being that affects the intensity of bodily and emotional functioning. Usually, in the days, weeks or months following the event, the shock causes physical phenomena such as nausea, tightness in the throat, knots in the stomach, palpitations, insomnia, fatigue,… Other forms in which grief can manifest itself are crying, sighing, tendency to isolation, dizziness or lack of attention, which are accompanied by moods and ideas of guilt, disbelief at what has happened, feeling that the person is still there and can even be heard.

This intense period in different areas of life is reflected in the expression “grief work”, which emphasizes the active role of the person in the experience and the changes that are experienced during the experience and the passage of time.

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Importance of giving time to grief

In contemporary society, the reaction to death is not considered unhealthy, but rather requires time to feel sadness and negative emotions that may include anger or rage. Despite this, current times do not make it easy to experience grief, as we ourselves lack the capacity to tolerate and allow sadness to surface. Years ago there was a “culture of mourning”, based on rites that facilitated the externalization of grief.

Nowadays, the “mourner” detects that emotional manifestations can be uncomfortable for those around him, which leads people to hide in order to cry or show their grief, without distressing those closest to them. If we add this to the fact that there is less and less tolerance of sadness, it is understandable that more and more people turn to health professionals to find chemical answers to silence painful emotions and alleviate physical and emotional symptoms.

When grief becomes a pathological experience

Grief is usually a time-limited process with a manageable intensity, but there are times when it becomes a “complicated grief” and requires detection. This type of grief is not benign and can involve suffering.

At a meeting of the Official College of Nursing of Guipuzcoa in 2015, they raised that after the death of a person there are a minimum of five close people who go through a grieving process, of which one in ten can develop in severe physical and emotional complications. The complication of grief can be related to the age of the deceased, the manner of death, previous experiences and the personality of the person experiencing the loss or the relationship with the departed.

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Grief is pathological when:

– The duration exceeds a time between six months and one year.

– The physical or emotional manifestations are sufficiently relevant to compromise physical, psychological and social well-being.

The boundaries between normal and pathological reactions are difficult to establish. The supervision of close people is essential to prevent the sufferer from entering a path of self-destruction from which it is difficult to return. The family and social network are decisive for subjects who do not know how to take effective initiatives, who are usually children, adolescents and the elderly. Because of this, the important thing is to know when professional help is required and not to become entrenched in grief. Grief cannot prevent one from continuing with the normal rhythm of life and altering physical and emotional health, as well as social integration.

Each individual experiences grief differently, so it is more difficult to determine the processes that will take place throughout the bereavement. The important thing is to avoid isolation and loneliness, connecting with support groups that allow to receive and offer active and constructive help to avoid falling into depression. In interaction, a resilient response can be achieved that helps to maintain a full life despite the loss in which, remembering the loved one, personal development can continue to progress without resentment.

Psychosocial intervention to prevent the chronification of grief

In grief it is important to mature with adversity, allowing a resilient elaboration of grief that involves:

– Encouraging sincere personal interaction.

– Trusting that other people’s experiences and listening to other people can contribute.

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– Stimulate the verbalization of the emotions aroused by the loss and move towards overcoming both orally before a group and in writing as a conscious expression of the inner world.

– To recognize and reinforce the capacity to face adversity through personal work of self-evaluation or listening to other people, improving self-perception and personal esteem.

– Achieving a dispassionate and more realistic view of the departed, as well as of the bonds with him or her and establishing a balance between the positive and negative aspects of the bonds.

– Feeling part of a welcoming human group, which accepts the pain and the way of being, which feels willing to comment with sincerity and respect the aspects that are susceptible to improvement.