All of us have experienced grief one way or another. We grieve when we lose someone dear to us, be it a family member, a close friend, or a pet, when a romantic relationship ends, or when we acquire a terminal illness. The resulting emotional pain is tantamount to a physical pain. It is indeed a haunting experience that no one can escape. Grief was first used in the 15th century. It was derived from the Anglo-French gref and Latin gravis and synonymous with affliction, anguish, dolefulness, dolor, heartache, heartbreak, sorriness, sorrow, and woe.
Grief is usually interchanged with bereavement and mourning. However, these words differ in meaning. Bereavement refers to a loss of a relative or friend through death (Andrews-Ahearn, 2009). Mourning, on the other hand, is the time when a person expresses grief (Ware, 2016). Grief, a set of intense emotional responses to a loss, should be addressed though immediate and professional support to mitigate its physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and social effects (Roberts, 2016).
Several theories attempted to provide a detailed explanation of grief. This paper will focus on four (4) theories, namely, Freud’s model of bereavement, Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief, Bowlby’s attachment theory, and Parker’s model of grief.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist. According to his model of bereavement, grief is a response to a loss. Mourning occurs due to a sense of detachment which may intensify into a form of depression called melancholia. Mourning causes the grieving person to reassess his current state in order to rebuild his future.
In other words, the grieving person deals with loss by reinterpreting reality and adjusting to the environment which in turn enables him to search for new attachments (Kakar and Oberoi, 2016).
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist. She wrote a book entitled On Death and Dying which enumerated the five stages of grief denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. An individual experiences denial when he avoids actual reality or creates for himself a false or preferable reality. He becomes confused with what is real and what is not. Once a person recognizes that denial cannot continue, he becomes anxious or frustrated, resulting to anger. Once this anger subsides, an individual seeks for bargain or compromise hoping that this would lessen his grief. Depression occurs when a person starts to recognize the reality of loss, spending most of his time alone. He becomes overwhelmed and hopeless. Acceptance begins when an individual start embracing the loss, exploring options, and moving on. Since grief is not a linear process, an individual may not have to go through these stages in a sequential manner nor experience them altogether (Kakar and Oberoi, 2016).
According to John Bowlby (1907-1990), a British psychologist, an individual start to develop attachment to significant others during childhood and continues as he ages. It becomes the foundation of his security and survival. Once this attachment is disrupted, he becomes emotionally disturbed, resulting to grief. Bowlby also suggests that there are four phases of grief, namely, numbness, yearning, despair and disorganization, and reorganization (Kakar and Oberoi, 2016). A person becomes numb after loss. In this phase, he rejects the loss resulting in anger and distress. Once numbness subsides, he experiences a strong longing for the loss. His mind is pre-occupied with a lot of thoughts. As time goes by, his emotions continue to intensify up to a point that he begins to question everything and dissociates himself from others. Finally, despair starts to diminish and he begins to reorganize his life (Catania-Opris, 2016).
Collin Murray Parker, a British psychiatrist, expanded Bowlby’s four stages of grief shock and numbness, yearning and searching, disorganization and despair, and reorganization. Parker added shock in the initial phase preceding numbness. In the second phase, as a person begins to yearn for the loss, he also searches for ways to fill the gaps caused by the loss. Parker retained despair and disorganization as well as reorganization (Catania-Opris, 2016). The theories mentioned discusses the various emotional aspects associated with grief. It is also important to note that grief, if not properly addressed, has physical, cognitive, spiritual, and social consequences.
Physical effects of grief may range from chills, diarrhea, insomnia, and fatigue to serious medical conditions such as cancer, heart attack, and liver cirrhosis (Roberts, 2016). A person’s ability to concentrate is greatly compromised in the grieving process. For adolescents, individualization, a process of developing an identity distinct from others, becomes challenging when they experience grief. Teenagers may also find it difficult to recover from grief because their level of maturity is not yet fully developed (Roberts, 2016).
Grief is a test of faith for an individual. Regardless of religious belief, a person may think of loss as an act of abandonment or punishment from the Almighty One as a result of his sins or shortcomings. Moreover, the dilemma of the final destination of the soul of their departed loved ones adds to his agony (Roberts, 2016). An individual’s social interaction may also be affected by grief. Feeling depressed, he may isolate himself from others (Roberts, 2016). Given the negative impact of grief on a person’s well-being, it is normal for him to seek for support. There are various self-help groups that provide professional advice to those individuals coping with grief. These groups offer their services through various platforms (i.e. phone, chat, face-to-face). Members of these self-help groups provide hope, inspiration, and a sense of belonging to the grieving individual.