Loss is an inevitable part of life. Grief, the natural response to loss, can be among the most challenging and painful experiences an individual faces. The Medical Station knows that losing someone you love or something you care about can bring about many different emotions, thoughts, and physical responses. Each individual experiences loss and grief uniquely. While there are no right or wrong ways to manage grief, there are certain healthy coping strategies that The Medical Station clinic recommends for those who may be suffering a loss.
What is Grief?
Grief is a natural and multifaceted response to loss; for many, it encompasses a great deal of emotional suffering as one understands the magnitude of the loss and develops the resilience to move forward in one’s life. The more significant or personal the loss, the more severe the grief tends to be. Though often associated with the death of a loved one, our clinic knows that grief can be caused by many different losses and life events, including:
- Divorce or relationship breakup
- Diagnosis of illness
- Loss of a job or financial stability
- Loss of a friendship
Even subtle, or seemingly non-significant, losses can cause grief. Grief is often characterized by feelings of shock, disbelief, sadness, guilt, anger, fear, or, for some, a lack of feelings and emotions, often understood as a sense of numbness. There are also physical symptoms that can result from grief including insomnia, fatigue, nausea, decreased immunity, weight changes, and body aches.
The Five Stages of Grief Model
In 1969, the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the now widely accepted Five Stages of Grief (or Bereavement) Model. Though Kübler-Ross initially conceived these stages for patients diagnosed with terminal illness, the model has since been generalized for many types of loss and subsequent grief. The stages are as follows:
While these stages can be helpful for individuals going through the grieving process, The Medical Station notes that each individual experiences grief differently. Grief is typically not a linear process, and many individuals may not experience all the stages, or may experience these feelings in a different order. This model was not meant to serve as a rigid universal framework; in reference to the model Kübler-Ross herself said, “they were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives.”
The Medical Station Offers Healthy Coping Strategies
There is no right or wrong way to manage grief – it is a highly personal experience. How you grieve depends on a number of factors including your personality, the loss you’ve experienced, your life history, and your environment. All of that being said, The Medical Station does recommend the following healthy strategies for coping with loss and grief:
- Don't ignore your feelings. Though it may be helpful to ignore or suppress your feelings and pain in the short-term, it will likely cause challenges in the future. In order to cope with your grief, our clinic suggests you find ways to actively deal with and express your feelings, whether that's journaling, art, or speaking with others.
- Get support. For many, this is the single most important factor in coping and healing. Its important to express and share your feelings – don't grieve alone. Whether this means seeking support from friends and family, your faith, a support group, or a medical professional, our clinic encourages you to find meaningful support during this challenging time.
- Take care of yourself. Look after your health as best as possible during this time – The Medical Station suggests focusing on sleeping, eating well, and staying active as much as you are able. Beware of harmful behaviours or substances that may appear to offer false comfort during this time.
- Don't make major decisions while grieving. The grief cloud can affect our judgment and may result in poor decision-making we later regret. To the extent possible, try to postpone any major life decisions.
The Medical Station Provides Grief Support
Opening in North York in Spring 2016, The Medical Station will work with you and your loved ones to define and support your grieving and healing process. Our Social Worker and other clinic care providers are well versed in grief management and are here for any mental, emotional, and physical needs you may have during the grieving process. Additionally, The Medical Station is in the process of developing grief support therapy groups that will be offered at the North York clinic in 2016.