What triggers grief?
Grief is often triggered by loss.
Bereavement, the death of a person (or animal) dear to us, often comes to mind for grief. There are however many other types of loss that can trigger grief. I’ve shown some examples below:
- Relationship breakups – romantic and family/friendships can cause tremendous amounts of grief.
- A loved one moving away (e.g. emigrating) or becoming estranged (e.g. grandparents losing touch with grandchildren after divorce).
- Losing the person – growing apart through taking different paths in life or personality changes, such as through an illness (such as Dementia or addiction) that takes the person we know away from us.
- Loss of something else dear to us, such as a job or house. Our freedom and our holiday plans were whisked away in the various lockdowns which triggered grief too in some.
These situations can trigger a feeling of great grief, yet we might not see that way and make allowances for ourselves at these times. In a similar way to losing a family member, we need to adjust and allow time to heal.
This is the most well-known trigger for grieving. There is a painful, yet natural, grieving process for the loss of someone very significant to us. It may easily take a couple of years or more to return to being a person who can return to more normal life and feel pleasure again.
We have to get through all those anniversaries; those visits to places that bring back memories; our changing relationships with friends etc. . Then there are all the unexpected little things that catch us unawares and leave us feeling raw emotionally. This is all so-called ‘healthy’ grieving!
Expectations of others can be challenging. Some friends and family might tell us to get on with our lives yet we don’t feel ready. Do listen though, and consider though whether there might be some truth in this and you might be stuck in your grief.
‘Healthy’ grieving – the seven stages
Here using the example of a bereavement but it does (as I said above) get triggered by other losses too.
1. Shock and disbelief
When you first find out about the death of a loved one, your initial reaction might be shock or complete disbelief. You’re not quite in denial, you just can’t even parse what has just happened. This is a defense mechanism that is designed to protect you from pain and allow you to function.
It allows us to plan a funeral or make other arrangements immediately after someone’s death. This is a state of suspension until you are able to grieve.
This can be similar to disbelief. It is another own coping mechanism and also helps us to deal with grief and pain. In order to function, we might simply deny that our loved one is gone, or push the thoughts out of our head. Some people can get stuck in a pathological and chronic state of denial and refuse to admit that anything bad has happened, but this is rare.
This phase takes form in different ways. Some people will deny they are grieving or affected by the loss whilst others will deny their loved one has gone.
Guilt is tough. It’s completely normal to wonder what we could have done to prevent the loss from happening. While most of us will feel some sort of guilt when a loved one dies (thoughts such as, “I should have done more,” “I should have called the doctor with my concerns” are common), around 7% of people will experience something called “complicated grief”.
Complicated grief is often centred around guilt and causes the sufferer to go over and over endlessly the details around the death and what they could have done differently. They also struggle to accept the finality of death, and/or surround themselves with photos and mementoes that help them to believe the deceased is still with them.
4. Anger and bargaining
This stage usually occurs after the ceremonies and funerals. The comforting family and friends have left, and we try to go about your life as usual. That’s often when the anger comes in, and often bargaining as well.
We might start to feel angry at the doctors, or someone else, and perhaps even at the deceased themselves. This anger can often cause a person to feel even more guilt, but know that it is entirely normal, and provides a necessary emotional release.
In some cases, people begin to ‘bargain’ mentally, even though they know it is in vain. For example, “I would do [whatever it is] to have them back.”
5. Depression, loneliness and reflection
Now that we have fully acknowledged the loss, it is common to experience depression and/or deep sadness. We may also feel lonely and isolated from other loved ones. This can be an especially good time to get some support from a professional.
6. Reconstruction, or ‘working through’
By this time, we may still find you are building a new life without your deceased loved one and living a ‘new normal.’ The hurt may feel raw and painful, we now know that we cannot change the situation. Though wemay not be fully ready to accept the death, life has to go on.
The final stage is acceptance. We have worked through the most painful and difficult work of grieving, and accept that our loved one is gone and that ‘life is for the living’.
There may be joy again and we might smile rather than feel sad when we think of our loved one. With this fresh start, we start a new hobby, take a trip, clear out their possessions to keep only the most important mementoes so that we can move on.
Grief is not easy!
As time passes, things can crop up that cause us to regress to one of the early stages, especially around holidays or anniversaries. However, over time it does ease, and the pain subsides. It never goes away completely, but we get to a stage where we can live with the loss.
Getting stuck in grief
It is possible to get “stuck” in a particular stage of grief. Unable to move on, to come to terms with the new life that has to be lived, or to find the energy and motivation to do anything much.
Recognising that we are stuck is difficult sometimes to see ourselves. If you are feeling low and don’t know what to do about it then consider getting some support, perhaps from a holistic practitioner and/or counsellor.
I have worked with clients who have done both – the talking therapy helps process it at the mental level and the energy medicine/holistic support eases the blockages left at other levels.
I recommend holistic therapies because they look at everything that is going on for the individual. Rather than dulling everything down (like an anti-depressant might*), the aim is to trigger a return to balance. This might just be kick-starting the natural grieving process to resume and complete in a way that is healthy for that individual.
I am a registered homeopath as well as a practitioner in other holistic therapies. When someone struggling after bereavement consults with me, I often find that physical ailments crop up alongside the grief. Appetite and digestion changes. New aches and pains. Energy levels and motivation might be lower. Sleep patterns are usually disturbed from the start.
Slowly and gently we can address many of these things and life can begin again for you with a slightly different perspective no doubt.
A package of support to start to pull things back together without adding to the stresses. A friendly person you can talk to in confidence can be most refreshing too.
*Do take medical advice if you have any concerns and certainly before changing any medications. This article is aimed at those seeking alternative ways to trigger natural healing
If you prefer to try self-help, there are some examples below of things you could try.
(Note: It is far more effective to seek professional advice from someone who can look at you and your situation as a whole. We tend to hide things from ourselves!)
Selected from those readily available:
- Ignatia is a wonderful grief remedy and can be given straight away to support the natural grieving process. Indications for its use later are that the person is unable to accept the loss, so bottling up the grief and might fluctuate between that and sobbing hysterically. Often he/she wants to be alone and dislikes consolation, perhaps being over-sensitive to criticism. Involuntarily sighing might be noticed.
- Natrum Muriaticum is useful if the person is stoically suffering the grief in silence (stiff upper lip). He/she might be suffering alone or just confide in one or two people. The grief feels very stuck and the remedy allows it to move on.
- Staphisagria – This is for a person with a lot of suppressed emotions and a lot of apprehension for the future. Perhaps a hypochondriac. There is often indignation about things done by others too. This remedy builds self-confidence.
- Lachesis – great sadness combined with anxiety. The person is talkative and may be very volatile emotionally. Tends to get left-sided symptoms.
- Arsenicum Album – very anxious. Perhaps doesn’t want to meet anyone, feels he/she has offended them. Sad and tearful. Exhausted.
- Merc Sol – Grief with fear at night. Quite a quarrelsome and complaining disposition.
There are thousands of remedies available. Consulting with a homeopath will help you to find the right one more quickly. Many, like me, provide Skype or phone consultations. To visit one near you go to www.findahomeopath.org
can also be a great support
Bach Flower essences – Rescue remedy can be given immediately to help support the person through any shock and it is can help if the person is feeling particularly anxious or stressed.
- To help the person to contact, open to and release grief carried in the physical body—Chrysocolla, Cotton Grass, Diopside, Ladies’ Mantle, Reindeer Moss
- To support, balance, and nurture the emotional process during the grieving process—River Beauty, Tidal Forces, White Fireweed
Bio-resonance/bio-energetics is the tool I most frequently use for people suffering from grief. It is gentle, easy for you (you just wear something called an e-Pendant), and provides tremendous support.
We can speak on the phone/zoom and it is (and I am) there for you as you deal with all the changes and emotional ups and downs.