There’s a harsh reality that’s important to keep in mind at all times: that no one’s exempt from losing someone important to them. Although the concept and attitudes about death have changed over time, dealing with losing a loved one is always difficult, especially when it’s unexpected or traumatic.
Sometimes, or most of the time, to be honest, it’s necessary to get moral support to get through this situation. Although most people, to a greater or lesser extent, are prepared to face these situations, sometimes they can get stuck in the process. Perhaps this even happened to you. For that reason, seeing a professional trained in social intervention in the stages of grief is essential.
Thus, we could say that grief is a process that people experience as a result of the loss of someone or something they love (Moreno, 2002). Basically, this process is quite normal in these situations. The felt reactions are of a physical, emotional, and social nature that can range from a temporary feeling of sadness to complete desolation, which, in the most serious cases, can last for years and even a lifetime. (Raphael, cited in Echeburúa and Corral, 2001).
The stages of grief
When it comes to grieving, every person is unique and different, which is why it’s key for everyone to go to a professional. Here are the stages of grief that psychiatrist Kubler-Ross presented in 1969:
There’s something important we must note here. Although it’s common to experience these stages, there are times when the symptoms and characteristics that the process adopts become part of what some call “pathological grief”. The intensity and duration of the emotional reaction characterize this variant. According to Echeburúa and Corral (2001), the characteristics in contrast to normal grief are:
- Greater intensity of symptoms.
- The reaction lasts over a year after the loss.
- The appearance of inappropriate symptoms for normal grief: hallucinations, delusions, social isolation, and sleep and appetite disturbances, among others.
Social intervention in the stages of grief
Regarding social intervention in the stages of grief, it’s vital to remember the importance of having prior knowledge about the types of grief, their causes, and consequences. At the end of the day, every person is an individual, and it’s important to understand the context in which they lost their loved one and how that particular experience affected them.
There are two intervention options: grief counseling or counseling and grief therapy.
Counseling as a social intervention in the stages of grief
The achievable goals with this level of intervention are the following (Worden, cited in González, 2011):
- Help to get closure with the deceased.
- Increasing the reality of the loss, trying to avoid or overcome denial.
- Assist to deal with expressed and latent emotions (facilitate emotional expression).
- Help to overcome the obstacles that make it difficult to readjust after the loss.
- Collaborate in two things: giving a proper goodbye and the resumption of a normal life.
In addition, this type of intervention should also focus on helping the family member realize that the loss is real. For one, they must learn to identify and express their feelings. Secondly, it’s vital to focus on the fact that they now have to live without the deceased. Integrating the loss into their personal story might be hard, but necessary.
It also helps the individual realize that they have time to assume the loss, that they don’t have to do it right away. Moving forward little by little is okay, progressive healing is okay. This technique gives the person coping strategies without forgetting the support and continuous monitoring that allows identifying possible pathological behaviors.
This is a more specialized model that requires more knowledge. This type of intervention seeks to favor the elaboration of grief in order to avoid possible complications in the process. Basically, it looks to identify and resolve separation conflicts that make it impossible to carry out daily tasks in people whose grief doesn’t appear, is delayed, is excessive, or prolonged. For all this, social intervention in the stages of grief from this perspective would be appropriate in these cases:
- Complicated and prolonged grief.
- When grief manifests itself through a somatic symptom or masking, or with an exaggerated reaction from the individual.
Although death is inevitable, dealing with the pain and suffering it brings can be extremely difficult at times. It’s hard to see the bright side of things while going through something like this, but everything that happens in life does so in order to teach important lessons.
As Bermejo (2005) said, grief may claim one of the greatest and most beautiful truths: the value of love, as well as the most tragic truth: the radical loneliness that characterizes humans. The death of a loved one inevitably confronts us with the mystery of life and reminds us of our own physical finitude. It imposes an empty kind of silence, an inevitable reflection.
In short, overcoming grief is all about balance, about learning to adapt to this unfortunate life circumstance. It’s resilience and reflection. It isn’t a matter of forgetting or ignoring but about learning to live with the absence.
“Embrace your grief. For there, your soul will grow.”