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GRIEF The loss of anything that is meaningful to a person
Initial Reaction Complete shock The world has stopped This isn't happening You're joking...What? Feelings of numbness, disbelief, rejection, unreality, frozenness This reaction is normal and is a healthy way of coping Acts as a buffer – protects us from feelings overwhelming us Usually of short duration – gradually wears off Processing the loss is underway
Examples of Loss Bereavement Illness Miscarriage Job/unemployment Relationship separation Termination of pregnancy Physical/Sexual Assault Health Fantasy loss – hopes and dreams Independence, status, role Possessions Immigration losses
Waves on a beach Snow Globe
Feelings You Might Experience Pain/Sorrow/Despair/Anguish Relief Anxiety Anger Guilt Sadness Yearning/Searching for Loved One Self Blame Loneliness Abandonment Fear Spiritual Confusion
Physical Signs headaches inability to concentrate various psychosomatic complaints tiredness digestive disruptions shortness of breath insomnia nausea sighing muscular aches tightness in throat or chest
One Explanation of Grief Reaction
Grief Shock/Denial Isolation Awareness of what has happened begins to surface – painful emotions and physical distress. Confusion - Time Alone/Social Contact Guilt Anger directed at self Feeling you could have prevented event or done something better If only...why didn't I...I should have Anger Can be a welcome relief from self blame Looking for justification for the hurt/blame Can be directed at external sources (God, Police etc) Can experience anger towards person who has died Form of self protection Constructive or destructive
Grief Bargaining Anticipatory Grief – someone terminally ill, pending loss of livelihood etc Trying to find alternative solutions to the inevitable Depression Reality of situation has been accepted No energy/drive/motivation Nothing can seem worthwhile Despairing Can feel alone/people have left Resignation Unwanted acceptance Feel like giving up Support is particularly helpful at this point Creative Acceptance Point of resolution and re-integration will be reached
Tasks of Grief To accept the reality of the loss Acknowledge the loss and find a way to say goodbye to what you have lost – rituals can help with this To experience the pain of the loss Feel all of your feelings – come/go quickly/long time 'Wave of emotion' fearful of overwhelm See pain as healing – normal reaction to loss Accept feelings but don't dwell – it is what it is! To adjust to the new environment Acknowledging all the changes Helps you to know what areas you need support
Tasks of Grief To re-invest energy in life and have a new relationship with your loss Relocating your loss Ways to celebrate and remember your loss Honour your loss – plant a tree, make a photo album or memory box, light a candle. Keeping the connection as well as transitioning to it being different Participating in life again doesn't mean you have forgotten your loss
Grieving Requires Action Loss is individual and different for everyone Expression of loss unique to individual Identifying losses makes experience real and clarifies your feelings Positive thoughts do not help in grieving process if you aren't acknowledging what is happening for you – avoidance/stuck Don't judge your feelings Talk, talk and talk about your loss. Helps with confusion, loneliness and relieves pressure Tell your stories – they are still there if you don't Be with people Express you feelings by talking or doing something that matches your feeling e.g. drawing, journaling, moulding, write the person a letter, plant a tree Expressing your feelings means you can move through your experiences Find ways to stay connected – this can be used as a resource
Join a Support Group Continue to use the person's name Get a Memento Connect with family/friends Acceptance happens when the reality of the situation is faced Grieving Requires Action (continued)
Self care in grief Allow other people to give you support. No-one else knows exactly how you feel, but many people have experienced loss and have support to give Tell people how they can support you Sleep/diet/exercise Talk about your loss, continue to use their name Abdominal breathing Don't make any major decisions – going through enough change Delegate small decisions Be gentle with yourself – your body needs energy for repair Do some activities – this gives your emotions a rest Balance between rest and activity Keep routines going
Talk with trustworthy people Join a support group Stay away from stress people or situations Do things you get comfort from – massage, hug etc Don't try to figure everything out It's OK to be taken care of for a while It is OK to laugh it doesn't mean you aren't grieving Self care in grief (continued)
Avoid Drugs & alcohol – quick fix/deepening depression/addictive/grief returns when you stop Avoid making major decisions while you are grieving. If a major decision is absolutely unavoidable, seek the wisdom of a trusted friend to help you. Don’t hide reminders of your loss (photos, favourite CD’s, etc.) the pain they cause can help you express your emotions and thus bring some relief. Avoidance gives the illusion that things are better. What you resist persists – "boiling mud"
As a friend what can I do Encourage real memories to be talked about. Doing practical things to help the person (e.g. dishes, cooking) Acknowledge that each griever’s way of grieving will be unique, and that stages of grieving may overlap. Recognise that at times the intensity of the grief will be greater than at others. Encourage the griever to express emotions. Remember the emotion many people have difficulty with is anger. If a family is involved remember the quieter ones are grieving too. If children are involved, encourage them to share in the grief process with the adults.
Allow the griever time to grieve. They will start feeling better gradually in their own time. Remember that often there is a lot of support immediately after the loss but that this tends to drop off. The grieving person will need support for quite some time. Encourage the griever to seek support from others who have common grief as they can support each other. Encourage the griever to be patient with themselves and with others who are grieving. Listen and try not to give advice Be beside the griever – sometimes no words are required As a friend what can I do (continued)
Avoid Changing the subject Offering platitudes such as it will get better with time, he/she had a long life, be grateful they aren't suffering, time will heal, you have other children, there are more fish in the sea etc Don't say "you shouldn't feel the way you do" Don't say "you should be over it by now" or to "just think positively" Although the intentions are helpful they just aren't helpful!
Resources www.skylight.org.nz http://www.talkingworks.co.nz/articles/grief+loss+and+change.html http://www.depression.org.nz/ Books The Journey Through, Skylight Coming to Grief How to Survive the Loss of a Love Lessons of Loss – A Guide to Coping