Cristina hasn’t understood very well what’s wrong with her for a long time. Since her father died about a year ago, she doesn’t feel the same. After her father’s illness and death, she tried to forget what had happened and never talk about it again. She returned to work two days after the funeral and since then has only spoken twice with her mother about it because she does not stop crying and wants to talk about the subject.
She feels normal but has started having nightmares at night. And, from time to time, she goes out and drinks too much. She has also started to feel sick, her stomach hurts and she is afraid of having the same illness as her father. She has been tested, but she is healthy. She doesn’t talk to anyone about her father’s death, and if anyone ever asks her how she feels, she answers by saying she’s normal and gets angry.
Cristina needs help to overcome her father’s mourning.
Sometimes, like Cristina, we don’t find a way to put into words the immense pain that the death of a loved one causes us. The pain is so great that it blocks us.
In this post, we will explain what grief is and its different phases. We will also give you recommendations to manage and overcome each specific mourning.
What is mourning?
Mourning is the psychological process that follows the loss of something that we loved very much and that was part of our lives and of us. Mourning is not only limited to the death of a loved one but can occur after the break-up of a relationship, even mourning can be experienced by abortion or loss of a job. It is an adaptive and necessary process.
Mourning is very important to adapt to the new situation in which we live. We have to accept little by little the changes that take place in us and in our environment after a loss. Grieving respectfully and without impatience will help us to cope with sadness much better and to recover our lives little by little.
In order to make respectful mourning it is important that we understand that it is a process and that, as such, it has a series of phases.
Stages of mourning
In order to identify the different phases of mourning, we will cite the theory of psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who in 1969 established in her book On Death and Dying 5 differentiated phases in the mourning process. These phases do not have to appear in this order, nor do they all have to occur. Each person is individual and lives his or her mourning independently and differently from the rest.
- Denial: You may have heard that someone has been shocked when something of great emotional impact has happened to them. The impact that the death of a loved one can cause us to first try to deny the new situation and want to go on with our lives as if nothing had happened. So in order to survive, we remain “frozen”. We freeze what we feel so as not to feel pain. It is a defence mechanism to protect us.
- Anger: when we realize that person is not coming back, we get angry. We lunge to the world. Against us. Sadness becomes a wave of enormous anger for not understanding why it happened to us and why that person has left and not another.
- Negotiation: after anger comes negotiation. We accept what happens but we seek a negotiation to recover what we had. For example, we can continue wanting to be close to our ex-partner by proposing to be friends. Negotiation is a way of not feeling so much pain.
- Depression: when we realise that what has happened cannot be changed and that we are going to have to accept it, we become sad. Pain can plunge us into a great sadness from which we may take some time to emerge. Little by little and with the necessary help, we will be able to move on to the next phase.
- Acceptance: is the final phase in which we accept what has happened and begin to forgive and rebuild our lives with that loss. We move from pain to the calm of acceptance.
Types of mourning
It is as important to understand what mourning is as it is to know the different forms of mourning that can occur. Here are the most common problems that arise when overcoming a loss.
#1.- Anticipated mourning
It occurs before death and occurs in the case of long illnesses. When death comes, at last, the person may feel relieved. It is usually long mourning and it is advisable to have psychological help to be able to properly express the pain and emotions that are arising in us. Often, we are so focused on the sick that we forget our pain and our mourning.
#2.- Unresolved mourning
If we do not understand how to overcome the death of a loved one and do not work on the mourning we may be stuck in one of the phases and not come to acceptance. We talk of unresolved mourning when the person has been stagnant in the process between a year and a half and two years. If we feel that we are not capable of overcoming sadness or anger alone, it is best to talk about our emotions with a close person or a therapist and not keep our feelings to ourselves. Communicating and saying how we feel will prevent mourning from becoming chronic.
#3.- Chronic mourning
When mourning takes hold of our lives and is present in everything we do, it is called pathological or chronic mourning. We are not capable of forgetting and death and pain are always there, always in our thoughts. It is very important that we identify the problem, that we accept that we have been doing this for too long and that we seek professional help.
#4.- Absent mourning
As its name suggests, it is mourning that seems not to have taken place. The person is blocked in the first phase of the mourning, denial, and does not progress. We must, little by little, accept the new reality even if it hurts. We must always rely on our loved ones and accept their help to come to terms with reality. If you see that you have been denying the death of a loved one for a long time, seek help. Reading about how to overcome mourning can help you accept reality as it is.
#5.- Delayed mourning
Sometimes, we feel that we must be strong, control the situation and not expose how sad or angry we feel over the death of a loved one. People who have to appear strong and in control may be affected by delayed mourning.
It is a mourning that takes longer to arrive because it has been contained. You may be a mother and have had to contain your emotions because you thought you had to be strong for your children. Little by little you have to let flow what you feel and be sad, we all deserve to pass our mourning to be able to live again.
#6.- Inhibited mourning
You may feel sad but don’t know how to express your emotions properly. Some people have a hard time expressing and saying how they feel. If we suffer an inhibited mourning we may have some kind of psychosomatic pain. Psychosomatization is a way of expressing emotions in our body, of expressing pain. If you suffer from inhibited mourning, it can help to go to a doctor and explain what is happening to you.
#7.- Unauthorized mourning
This mourning happens when your environment does not accept that you are mourning the death of a loved one, either because they did not approve of your relationship with that person, or because they are considered a person not deserving of mourning. Remember that you are always the one who decides about your feelings and that no one should do it for you. All mourning is necessary.
#8.- Distorted mourning
It occurs when a person has a disproportionate mourning reaction because they have already experienced previous mourning over the death of a very close loved one such as a partner, parent, sibling, or child. When you hear the same mourning phrases again and experience a similar situation for another death, you may react in the same way as you did in the first mourning, which will result in distorted mourning.
Remember that each mourning is different and that we must live them individually, each with its phases and stages. Not every mourning will make us feel the same sensations.
Mourning will help us to accept death, to learn to express our feelings and to live with the healthy memory of those we love the most. Now you know what mourning is and how it comes about, but you may need help knowing how to overcome a close death. If you don’t know how don’t hesitate to contact a therapist. He or she will help you through your mourning in a healthy way and transform pain and anger into acceptance. He will help you keep the memories of those you love the most away from pain.
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