Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Understanding Grief and Loss

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

My family and I recently began the journey of moving on after the death of a close family member.  While we didn’t know this little one of ours long, our grief surrounding his death has been overwhelming at times.  This week I wanted to touch on a couple of things that I found enlightening and which have helped me understand my own grief better, which can be found in an M.S.U. MontGuide titled, “Understanding Grief and Loss Following Death.”
The grief reaction individuals experience is unique and personal, as I have discovered.  There is a broad range of feelings and behaviors commonly experienced after the death of a loved one.  Individual reactions vary in intensity, duration and processing of grief symptoms, depending on whom or what was lost.  These reactions can be emotional and could include sadness, anger, anxiety, numbness and shock among other emotions.  Grief can also be translated into physical reactions including fatigue, crying, and disrupted sleep.  As we have experienced, any of these, especially the crying can come on at any time.

Men and women often experience the grieving process differently, as we are socialized differently in our society.  Although this is changing, the idea that “men don’t cry,” still exists.  Men have a tendency to want to solve the problem and become more active in work and leisure activities when grieving.  They are less likely to reach out and talk to others and express their grief openly.  They are more likely to share their sorrows and fears with their wives and not friends.  They are more likely to take action than express grief.  Many of these things expressed I have experienced, as I have talked openly with my wife and have had the opportunity to throw myself into my work, especially during the recent Marias Fair.
Women are more likely to be expressive in their grief and accept the support of others.  In addition to their spouse, women tend to have more outlets and support as they go through grief.  They are more likely to reach out to others.  Women are more likely to attend grief support groups than men and often have fewer health consequences after losing a spouse than do men. 

Knowing that there are some differences in how men and women grieve may assist a family as the members work through the grieving process.  Perhaps men and women can learn from each other that expressing emotion, seeking support from others, and taking action to return to routines are all helpful in the grieving process.

I know that we have had many people express their condolences and offer to help us through this difficult time.  My family and I are deeply appreciative of this.  For our friends and family, understanding that grief is expressed through a variety of behaviors is useful.  Be patient and let the grieving person know that others care and are there to support him or her. 

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