Understanding the realities of Grief and Loss:
In life many of us have lost someone or something that we love. For instance, loss occurs when someone we love died or is separated, as losing a sister, co-workers, brother, father, mother, friend, relative or a property. The state of losing someone that we love is a grieving experience, so it is a painful experience that hurts us; therefore grief is made up of a mix of displeasing feelings as sadness, frustration, loneliness, irascibility, annoyance and anger among others displeasing feelings for instance
What is Grief & Loss in Crisis Situations?
These days, most people spend more of their time within their communities. People who dwell together in their communities may become close like an extended family. Therefore when a colleague dies or one is grieving a death or a loss, the impact on his/her friends can be tremendous and can influence the communities in a variety of ways. Communal development can be compromised and the dynamics of the community can change. When the death is unexpected, in a violent act or an accident as in the case of the mudslide and flooding in Freetown Sierra Leone, the grief response can be quite traumatic for the survivors, further impacting community progress.
Each person’s experience of loss and each grief response is unique. However there are some common feelings and symptoms often experienced by the grieving. These include: sadness, betrayal, anxiety, fear, mistrust, irritability, guilt, anger, tension, depression, and loss of confidence. Grieving people often develop physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, changes in appetite, increased drug or alcohol use, restlessness, absentmindedness, and poor concentration. These emotions and symptoms of grief response can significantly impact a person’s ability to function.
Thus, grief can upset communities’ progress and hamper community members’ relationships. When a community member experiences a loss or an illness their ability to deal with the grieving process can become even more prolonged if the person does not feel aided by his/her family, friends and community members. Those who feel cared for and supported are more likely to have improved recovery.
Responding to issues of loss?
• Accept that grief is a normal response to loss and healing takes time.
• Anticipate that there will be time when the grief recurs and you may be overcome with the intense emotions anew.
• Be cognizant of special dates—holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays.
• Realize that not everyone is comfortable dealing with grief. Friends and loved ones may not be able to handle your grief response.
• Search out supportive people who will listen to your story of grief.
• Find other creative ways of coping with the loss.
• Share your feelings with friends and family.
Support to community or family member experiencing personal loss
• Acknowledge the grief process of that individual.
• Let the person know you empathize with the impact of their loss.
• Expect tears and sadness.
• Express sympathy openly and from the heart—whether in person or in writing.
• Expect to listen to the story of the grieving colleague again and again.
• Respect the grieving person’s desire for privacy. Honor closed doors and silence in conversation.
• Offer specific and appropriate assistance—cooking a meal, caring for children, helping with shopping or other errands.
• Accept less than their best performance from their normal activities for a while, but expect a return to the best over time.
Responding to the issues of death – A cultural approach
• Arrange for a meeting. This gives family members and community members the opportunity to grieve and share their feelings. Sudden, accidental or violent deaths as in the case of flooding and mudslides may require additional times for people to talk.
• Those who were particularly close with the deceased may need additional support.
• If appropriate, choose someone to serve as the family liaison to organize and spare head funeral plans – including expression of sympathy be it flowers, cards, or donations, etc.
• Take the time to grieve. Honor the person who died in an appropriate way. Some suggestions:
• Create a condolence book.
• Collect money for a charitable donation.
• Share tributes
• Attend the funeral or memorial service.
Supporting bereaved families or community members in their grieving processes
• Immediately acknowledge the death and demonstrate support for the grieving person – Can make some financial contributions (based on need).
• A representation could be made at the funeral/memorial service.
• Providing some flexibility for any negative response due to the impact of the loss.
• Being patient and understanding that the grieving process takes time and that the friends and family members will not quickly “snap out of it” will also help.
Other things worth taking note of:
• Let the person grieve in his or her own way. If the person finds working to be therapeutic, do not lighten the workload.
• If the grieving person is slow to move back into normal routine work, try to ease his/her workload.
• Accept that the grieving person’s moods may be changeable for some time. It helps to be aware that intense feelings can suddenly re-emerge which are beyond the person’s control.
• Expect tears. They are a normal part of the grieving process.
• Avoid being judgmental of however the individual grieves. Some people may become numb and the grieving process is delayed for weeks or even months after the death.
• Respect the grieving person’s privacy, need for solitude and confidentiality.
• Watch out for other family or community members. Old memories, feelings and grief may be triggered as a result of the co-worker’s loss. It may be necessary to honor the old grief separately from the newly grieving person.
• Be careful in sharing stories of your own losses unless you’re certain the person can tolerate it.