Although different cultures react to grief and loss differently, humans express sadness in a universally similar way – through tears. Tears are known to contain stress hormones, so crying is a healthy and natural release of stress caused by grief.
The Kubler – Ross Cycle was originally formulated to describe the phases one goes through when faced with the prospect of death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Now, many psychologists use these stages to help explain how we cope with any type of grief and loss, not just death.
When working with people who identify strongly and consistently with a belief in God, I’ve found that my clients who experience loss find it a lot easier to accept the loss. Most of them still experience depression, but skip the stages of denial, anger and bargaining. Acceptance of destiny, belief in a “bigger picture”, and this life as a temporary journey towards a more meaningful after-life are the beliefs that help them cope with grief, loss and death. For spiritual people, death is not final, though it can still be devastating. The deep sadness and yearning for what has been lost is still there, but again, those whose spiritual faith is strong and consistent find it easier to accept. I am sometimes amazed at the way some of my grieving clients can express feelings of gratitude, even in the midst of sadness. Gratitude to the Higher Power who knows best. Another group of clients identify as spiritual, but their faith is not always consistently solid – more people fall into this category. They may go through denial, bargaining and anger. Acceptance, that deep inner state of patience, is harder to reach, but eventually they do reach it. For some, achieving acceptance is part of their spiritual journey.
How last rites are performed varies from culture to culture as well. For some, a wake is an opportunity to celebrate the life of a loved one. It’s a time for remembering good memories and being thankful for them. Clients who pay their last respects in this positive manner feel less traumatized. For others, funerals are a time of loud crying and lamenting. This type of “goodbye” is distressing and makes the process of recovery from grief longer and harder, especially for children.
Regardless of cultural background and belief systems, it’s important to accept loss. Unresolved grief can manifest as emotional instability, affecting a person physically, socially and across all areas of life. Acceptance of loss, especially when combined with gratitude, manifests in an amazing capacity for resiliency.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA