Mourning: how to survive grief?

Grief is one of the most difficult experiences in life. He ranks at the top of the famous Holmes and Rahe stress scale. How to survive grief? Even such a traumatic experience as the death of a loved one can have different consequences.

How do survive grief and come out of it stronger?

Bereavement is an inevitable process that everyone goes through at least several times in their life, a common experience, but little is said about it. People live in the times of the cult of youth, and activity; the theme of death is rather pushed to the margins of everyday life. According to the survey, almost half of Europeans believe that death is not worth thinking about. It is not surprising that many do not know how to cope with the loss of loved ones, or how to support other people in mourning.

Surviving grief

Why is it important to understand grief?

Everyone experiences grief in their way. However, feelings such as despair, sadness, fear, guilt, longing, as well as anger or rage are inherent in everyone. Psychologists have described several phases of grief and the behavior that can accompany them. Knowing this will help you understand and accept your reactions to the death of a loved one, which will facilitate the inevitable process of coming to terms with the loss.

The experience of grief depends on many factors: the nature of the relationship with the deceased (grieving for a grandmother is usually different from grieving for a child), the circumstances of his death, the stage of life at which you are, and how you usually cope with your emotions. The psychological stages of bereavement are just a free framework for describing the most painful of human experiences. You don’t have to fully identify yourself with the description below.

What are the symptoms and stages of grief?

The first stage of grief is shocking, especially when the death of a loved one becomes a complete surprise. You may react to the news of their demise with disbelief, a sense of unreality. Natural behavior includes crying, screaming, or – on the contrary – immobility, and long silence. The beginning of mourning is the time of mobilization associated with the organization of the funeral, but even then you may experience somatic symptoms such as headache and dizziness, palpitations, shortness of breath, sleep disorders, or appetite – typical for the next phase of mourning.

The second phase is filled with strong, extremely diverse emotions – from despair to anger. Depending on what your relationship with the deceased was, you may feel anger (for example, towards doctors, the person responsible for the accident, or even the deceased) or remorse (both about what you could have changed and about what you could not control). At this time, the pain of losing the deceased is most intense, you are constantly thinking about him and even “looking” for his presence (you may even think that you see him). This condition usually lasts for several weeks.


Psychologists call the next stage disorganization. At this time, you most strongly feel the emptiness left by the deceased, and it is difficult for you to imagine further life without him. Although the most vivid emotions subside (they return in episodes), you may be accompanied by overwhelming sadness, a sense of hopelessness, lack of purpose, as well as helplessness, and anxiety. During this phase, which lasts for several months, many avoid contact with people or, conversely, plunge into a whirlwind of activity to get away from thoughts of the loss suffered.

The fourth stage of mourning is reorganization: the time when you gradually begin to adapt to a new situation, return to what you gave up (for example, to your hobby), and get more and more pleasure from what is happening to you. Memories of the deceased may still be intense, but more beautiful than painful. During this phase, new goals, plans, and hopes appear, and the death of a loved one can become a motivation for you to change.

How do survive successive phases of grief?

Grief is a painful experience, but it’s better to face complex emotions than to deny them. Many people do not allow them into their heads, going into work, games, or bad habits. This is not the best way to deal with grief. Feelings associated with the death of a loved one do not disappear. They can only be silenced, and then at the most inopportune moment (for example, if you lose your job), they can strike with a vengeance.

The phrase “grieve” has a deep meaning – the loss of a loved one is best experienced consciously, allowing tears, anger, or lack of energy. Treat yourself as carefully as you would treat a grieving friend. Deal with your feelings by allowing yourself what you need. For each person, this can mean something different, for example, resting alone, burning things of the deceased, and having long conversations about him.

Spending time with your close people

A good way to survive the time of grief is to communicate with people who are also experiencing the death of a loved one. Meetings of such support groups are held in many cities. There are numerous online communities dedicated to grief. Suffering is easier to bear if you feel that you are not alone, and if someone shows you sincere understanding.

How long does the grief last?

There is no universal answer to the question of how long you need to grieve. It used to be traditional to mourn a husband or wife for a year, and parents for six months. It was a time when they wore black clothes and refrained from games and celebrations. Nowadays, grief manifests itself differently, and the pace of life sometimes even requires returning to normal activity as soon as possible. However, everyone has the right to grieve in their way as much as they need. A sign that you are not coping with the grieving process is chronic retention (more than six months) and severe symptoms of its first and second stages. In such situations, it is useful to consult a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist.

Experiencing grief consciously, you get the opportunity to comprehend the separation from your loved one. People who have experienced such an experience often call it a breakthrough. Many of them “reconciled” with the deceased years later, having freed themselves from the trauma they had previously experienced. Others have gained faith in God or another higher order. For some, bereavement has allowed them to reconsider their entire lives, making them happier people.

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