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Why It Is So Hard For Us to Accept the Loss of a Loved One

Why It Is So Hard For Us to Accept the Loss of a Loved One
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Having a loved one die is like becoming a part of a club you never wanted to join. This is especially the case if the death is untimely, such as a young child passing, or the accidental death of a spouse. You may feel labeled by your loss and that the burden of this loss on your life is one that you will never overcome. Acceptance of a loved one’s death is possible, however it will also forever change you as a person. Your ability to process the death and the subsequent stages of grief will get you to acceptance. Acceptance of death does not mean you are left unscathed. Death of a loved one will change you forever, but how you deal with the grieving process will determine your acceptance and ability to move forward in life.

The real problem is that most people in the midst of their sorrow can’t imagine accepting the loss of their loved one. To do so would inadvertently mean that the person wasn’t that meaningful or that they aren’t worth the pain and sorrow. A good article on grief by Marty Tousley [1]. These steps are denial/ isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. People do not always go through these steps in the exact order. In some cases people may actually skip some of the steps.

However, these five steps are generally what most people immersed in grief experience. These stages have been studied by researchers and have been shown to be a commonly experienced across all the population, regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, etc. Understanding these stages can help an individual who is grieving, as they can recognize that their emotions are legitimate and commonly experienced by others who experience grief.

Professor Allan Kellehear wrote the the forward in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s well known book “On Death and Dying”.[2] This is the book in which she lays out the stages of the grieving process. The Professor noted the following in his forward regarding the flexibility allowed within these stages of grief:

“These stages are merely a set of categories artificially isolated and separately described so that the author can discuss each of these experiences more clearly and simply. The careful reader will note Kübler-Ross’s own repeated warnings that many of these “stages” overlap, occur together, or even that some reactions are missed altogether.”

The useful visual (below) of the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief was found at www.slideshare.net.[3] This is a general guideline and description of the stages, but once again, they can be experienced in a different order and/or stages in the process skipped altogether. These are a generalization of the grieving process, so you can recognize these emotions in yourself when you are grieving.

    Acceptance is the last, but not least stage.

    The crux of acceptance is the assumption that this means the person experiencing the grief is now healed, they are once again whole, and that the feelings of loss will be gone forever. That simply is not how grief and acceptance work.

    Acceptance involves the recognition that your life and your soul are somehow in some way changed forever because of the loss of your loved one. You will never return to that person you were before the loss. You are changed. For most people, the change is not good and it is not bad. The change just means you are different now that your loved one is no longer with you. They are with you in spirit and in your thoughts and mind, but physically they can’t be with you any longer.

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    The Funeral Resources Website speaks to the topic of acceptance and how it is a time when the individual realizes they are not the same person they were before.[4] Acceptance is to be oneself in your new life, a changed you, because your loved one is no longer present physically in your life.

    Acceptance should not be confused with healing or recovering from the loss, since that would put an enormous amount of pressure on people experiencing grief. Acceptance is really the beginning of the real healing process. It is the point where recovery becomes about the person left behind, and not about the person being mourned.

    Embrace the process.

    The grieving process is not easy. It’s not a smooth path either. More often than not, it is bumpy, uncomfortable, and a miserable blip in your time on this planet. But that is exactly what it is, a blip. It is not a permanent phase, even though it may feel permanent at that moment. You may be in the depression stage where you feel extreme sadness and loss. This feeling can be so overwhelming you wonder if you will ever experience happiness or joy again. You can, and you will, if you allow yourself to move one step in front of the other. To continue to live and allow yourself to process your emotions and feelings. If you don’t, you can get stuck in a phase of grief or it can come back to deliver its wrath and compounded emotions at a later time. It is always better to deal with the emotions and feelings as they naturally come through the processing of grief. Embrace your blip in time and acknowledge these emotions and steps of grief as you go through them. Author Luminita Saviuc in her article “7 Ways to Deal with the Death of a Loved One” discussed the grieving process and eloquently stated:[5]

    “Feel the pain, embrace it, live it and when you’re ready, know that it’s okay to let go of it for the healing process can’t be complete until you learn to let go. Let go in order to be happy once again.”

    Information is power.

    To embrace the process it is helpful to understand the process. The stages of grief are not a one size fits all. Everyone experiences grief in a unique fashion, as each human being is unique. However, the stages or steps in the grieving process provide some generalization about how most of the population on the planet experiences grief. There can be ups and downs in these steps, there can be repeating of steps, and in some cases steps are skipped altogether. Understanding all of these things and allowing yourself to process each stage as your emotional makeup allows is important.

    Other factors such as emotional support and professional help are also important, especially when a person is stuck within a stage of grieving or is otherwise repressing emotions to try to suppress the process of grief.

    Get emotional support.

    You are not an island in this world. Everyone is connected to other people and everyone needs those connections, especially when you are grieving. There are times in the grieving process that you will want to be left alone. Jinna Yang in her article “10 Things I Learned While Dealing With the Death of a Loved One”, eloquently described her process of grieving the loss of her Father, which literally took her years.[6] There were times she wanted to be left alone, yet other times that a friend was exactly what she needed for emotional support to get her through that time of grief. Everyone needs emotional support. However, levels of emotional support required for one person are not the same for another, even if the situation or circumstances are similar. We all grieve and process our emotions differently. However, emotional support is proven beneficial to an individual during times of grief. If you are experiencing grief, be open to the support and comfort provided by others. Allow yourself an openness so that others can be of emotional support to you.

    Seek counseling and guidance.

    Grief counseling, also know as bereavement counseling is immensely helpful to anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one. The sooner the therapy is sought after the loss, the more beneficial that therapy can be in assisting with the immediate grieving process.

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    The Psychology Today Website has a search tool for you to locate a grief therapist in your area.[7] Their search tool includes counselors, therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrists. Use your zip code to search and you can also narrow your search by insurance carriers that the providers accept. Support groups are also available through this search tool on the Psychology Today Website. Try one method of therapy and if it isn’t a good fit then try another, as therapy is not a one size fits all remediation.

    Reference

    [1] Open to Hope: Can We Ever ‘Accept’ Death of a Loved One” discussed acceptance and so wisely states the following to mourners:

    “You are not alone in feeling “a huge aversion to any thought of moving on, healing, closure, acceptance, acknowledgement, etc.” Most of us mourners have trouble with words like “acceptance,” because in truth the death of our loved ones will never, ever be “acceptable” to us”.

    To be in the midst of mourning the loss of a loved one, it is most unfathomable to imagine “accepting” the death. Acceptance isn’t in the realm of a current mourner’s feelings or even desired emotions. They need to process their pain and grief and then the subsequent acceptance will come in due time, as they process through the stages of grief.

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    The Stages of Grief

    There are five primary stages of grief. Psych Central describes the widely accepted theory of grief processing, which includes five steps or stages ((Psych Central: The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss

    [2] Elizabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation: On Death and Dying
    [3] SlideShare: Kubler Ross Grief Cycle
    [4] Funeral Resources Website: The Five Stages of Grief
    [5] Purpose Fairy: 7 Ways to Deal With the Death of a Loved One
    [6] Huffington Post: 10 Things I Learned While Dealing With the Death of a Loved One
    [7] Psychology Today: Find a Grief Therapist

    More by this author

    Dr. Magdalena Battles

    A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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    Last Updated on February 11, 2021

    20 Amazing Facts About Dreams that You Might Not Know About

    20 Amazing Facts About Dreams that You Might Not Know About
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    Dreams — Mysterious, bewildering, eye-opening and sometimes a nightmarish living hell. Dreams are all that and much more.

    Here are 20 amazing facts about dreams that you might have never heard about:

    Fact #1: You can’t read while dreaming, or tell the time

      If you are unsure whether you are dreaming or not, try reading something. The vast majority of people are incapable of reading in their dreams.

      The same goes for clocks: each time you look at a clock it will tell a different time and the hands on the clock won’t appear to be moving as reported by lucid dreamers.

      Fact #2: Lucid dreaming

      There is a whole subculture of people practicing what is called lucid or conscious dreaming. Using various techniques, these people have supposedly learned to assume control of their dreams and do amazing things like flying, passing through walls, and traveling to different dimensions or even back in time.

      Want to learn how to control your dreams? You can try these tips:

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      Lucid Dreaming: This Is How You Can Control Your Dreams

      Fact #3: Inventions inspired by dreams

      Dreams are responsible for many of the greatest inventions of mankind. A few examples include:

      • The idea for Google -Larry Page
      • Alternating current generator -Tesla
      • DNA’s double helix spiral form -James Watson
      • The sewing machine -Elias Howe
      • Periodic table -Dimitri Mendeleyev

      …and many, many more.

      Fact #4: Premonition dreams

      There are some astounding cases where people actually dreamt about things which happened to them later, in the exact same ways they dreamed about.

      You could say they got a glimpse of the future, or it might have just been coincidence. The fact remains that this is some seriously interesting and bizarre phenomena. Some of the most famous premonition dreams include:

      • Abraham Lincoln dreamt of His Assassination
      • Many of the victims of 9/11 had dreams warning them about the catastrophe
      • Mark Twain’s dream of his brother’s demise
      • 19 verified precognitive dreams about the Titanic catastrophe

      Fact #5: Sleep paralysis

      Hell is real and it is called sleep paralysis. It’s the stuff of true nightmares. I’ve been a sleep paralysis sufferer as a kid and I can attest to how truly horrible it is.

      Two characteristics of sleep paralysis are the inability to move (hence paralysis) and a sense of an extremely evil presence in the room with you. It doesn’t feel like a dream, but 100% real. Studies show that during an attack, sleep paralysis sufferers show an overwhelming amygdala activity. The amygdala is responsible for the “fight or flight” instinct and the emotions of fear, terror and anxiety. Enough said!

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      Fact #6: REM sleep disorder

      In the state of REM (rapid-eye-movement) stage of your sleep your body is normally paralyzed. In rare cases, however, people act out their dreams. These have resulted in broken arms, legs, broken furniture, and in at least one reported case, a house burnt down.

      Fact #7: Sexual dreams

      The very scientifically-named “nocturnal penile tumescence” is a very well documented phenomena. In laymen’s term, it simply means that you get a stiffy while you sleep. Actually, studies indicate that men get up to 20 erections per dream.

      Fact #8: Unbelievable sleepwalkers

        Sleepwalking is a very rare and potentially dangerous sleep disorder. It is an extreme form of REM sleep disorder, and these people don’t just act out their dreams, but go on real adventures at night.

        Lee Hadwin is a nurse by profession, but in his dreams he is an artist. Literally. He “sleepdraws” gorgeous portraits, of which he has no recollection afterwards. Strange sleepwalking “adventures” include:

        • A woman having sex with strangers while sleepwalking
        • A man who drove 22 miles and killed his cousin while sleepwalking
        • A sleepwalker who walked out of the window from the third floor, and barely survived

        Fact #9: Dream drug

        There are actually people who like dreaming and dreams so much that they never want to wake up. They want to continue on dreaming even during the day, so they take an illegal and extremely potent hallucinogenic drug called Dimethyltryptamine. It is actually only an isolated and synthetic form of the chemical our brains produce naturally during dreaming.

        Fact #10 Dream-catcher

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          The dream-catcher is one of the most well-known Native American symbols. It is a loose web or webs woven around a hoop and decorated with sacred objects meant to protect against nightmares.

          Fact #11: Increased brain activity

          You would associate sleeping with peace and quiet, but actually our brains are more active during sleep than during the day.

          Fact #12: Creativity and dreams

          As we mentioned before, dreams are responsible for inventions, great artworks and are generally just incredibly interesting. They are also “recharging” our creativity.

          Scientists also say that keeping a dream diary helps with creativity.

          In rare cases of REM disorder, people actually don’t dream at all. These people suffer from significantly decreased creativity and perform badly at tasks requiring creative problem solving.

          Fact #13: Pets dream too

            Our animal companions dream as well. Watch a dog or a cat sleep and you can see that they are moving their paws and making noises like they were chasing something. Go get ’em buddy!

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            Fact #14: You always dream—you just don’t remember it

            Many people claim that they don’t dream at all, but that’s not true: we all dream, but up to 60% of people don’t remember their dreams at all.

            Fact #15: Blind people dream too

            Blind people who were not born blind see images in their dreams but people who were born blind don’t see anything at all. They still dream, and their dreams are just as intense and interesting, but they involve the other senses beside sight.

            Fact #16: In your dreams, you only see faces that you already know

              It is proven that in dreams, we can only see faces that we have seen in real life before. So beware: that scary-looking old lady next to you on the bus might as well be in your next nightmare.

              Fact #17: Dreams tend to be negative

              Surprisingly, dreams are more often negative than positive. The three most widely reported emotions felt during dreaming are anger, sadness and fear.

              Fact #18: Multiple dreams per night

              You can have up to seven different dreams per night depending on how many REM cycles you have. We only dream during the REM period of sleep, and the average person dreams one to two hours every night.

              Fact #19: Gender differences

              Interestingly, 70% of all the characters in a man’s dream are other men, but women’s dream contain an equal amount of women and men. Also men’s dreams contain a lot more aggression. Both women and men dream about sexual themes equally often.

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              Fact #20: Not everyone dreams in color

              As much as 12% of people only dream in black and white.

              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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