How to Handle Grief and Loss in Midlife
Grief is a very strong feeling of sadness especially caused by the loss of someone dear. During this time you tend to feel numb and a sense of detachment from your everyday tasks and miss the existence of a person. Studies say that grieving can last for months and that one should be prepared for the different stages. It will take a toll on our emotional and personal life. Having someone to vent to and validate your grief and the process you are going through can be really helpful.
The grieving process goes through stages for everyone. It is not necessary that the stages go in order and there isn't any set timing for a particular stage. A number of internal and external factors play a role as to how long these stages last until a person finally reaches acceptance.
Denial is the first stage and this helps in minimizing the overwhelming pain. It is really hard to come in terms with the loss of someone you may have been in touch with.
The second stage is anger. In this stage you aren't sure what, who or why you are angry with. This stage has a lot of extreme emotional discomfort. Anger is a way used by people to channel these extreme emotions.
The next stage is depression. Grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It is important to understand that it is completely normal to feel this way.
In the fourth stage of bargaining, you are willing to bargain to a higher power for the loved ones' life. You are willing to give up anything you have to have them back. When we lose our sense of control, bargaining helps us get a sense of stability.
The last stage is acceptance. In this stage you re-enter reality. You come to terms with a new reality and understand that life has to go on. In this stage, you may lift from your fog; you start to engage with friends again, and might even make new relationships as time goes on. You understand your loved one can never be replaced, but you move, grow, and evolve into your new reality.
During this period we need information, communication, emotional support, guidance and direction. The symptoms can express themselves physically, socially, or spiritually: crying, headache, difficulty in sleeping, questioning the purpose of living, self isolation from family and friends, emotional outbursts, abnormal behaviour etc.
Grief is difficult during any part of your life. During your midlife, you may find it really difficult to let go of a person who you formed an emotional connection with. It could be your partner, your parents, a very close friend or someone you've known all your life. They might feel guilty for not having been able to protect their children). Losing a spouse or partner during a disaster or crisis event can leave middle aged adults with (often unfamiliar) responsibilities and roles, experiencing financial hardship, and/or dealing with grieving children. Middle aged adults might grieve future plans for retiring together. “Reinventing” oneself sounds fabulous, but sometimes it can be sad and overwhelming
This kind of grief and loss should be handled in a delicate way.
Acknowledge your pain: Don't push the feelings away. Face them and try to understand what you are feeling. Pushing it away will cause suffocation and will lead to greater problems. You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process.
Understand that the grieving process will be unique to you: Everyone grieves in a different way. Validating emotions is a part of grieving.
Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically:
A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Try to keep your body active so as to let your mind breathe.
Understand the difference between grief and depression: Feeling of grief is normal during loss, it takes time to move on from and as long as there is momentum it is not a problem.
Draw comfort from your faith. If you follow a religious tradition, embrace the comfort its mourning rituals can provide.
Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgement.
Midlife, after all, is still life. There will always be grieving. Grieving means there are still things I’m afraid to lose, and there are experiences you’ll want to try before your inevitable sun setting. Make sure you have a healthy circle who validates your pain and helps you get through this stage without judgement and with validation