“How often–will it be for always?–How often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time. The first plunge of the knife into the flesh is felt again and again.” C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed.

In today’s blog we will look at some additional theories about how we grieve. We will conclude in Part 4 and 5 with symptoms of grief and a discussion of traumatic loss and complicated grief.

The Stress and Crises Model of Grief

As the category suggests, this model of grief focuses on grief as a stress and a crises.

When a spouse dies this creates stress, as there are so many feelings to address and things to do. For many, life has changed in a major way following the death of a partner. In Joan Dideon’s book, The Year of Magical Thinking, she shows the way loss of a life partner is intricately woven into the everyday producing a myriad of new stresses.

Likewise, death and illness, dying and loss, all represent a crisis. A crisis is anything that represents a turning point. We tend to think of a crises in negative terms; there are situations when a landfall of money through an inheritance presents a crisis. There is also the term crises of opportunity, which refers to the way it feels to have wonderful opportunities presented and be unclear regarding the next move to take.

The Attachment Theory Model of Grief

Attachment theory is credited to the psychoanalyst, John Bowlby. His research was done with children and their parents. He recorded reactions upon children being separated from their parents and vice versa. When applied to bereavement and death, attachment theory says that we grieve when we have lost an attachment and that attachment developed in order to help us to survive.

Therefore, when an attachment is lost, we are too. Some of what we see in terms of a grief response may have evolved as part of the human condition. Without our attachments our very survival is threatened.

The Freudian and Psychoanalytic Model of Grief

In this model of grief, pain is seen as being repressed. Repressed pain leads to the advent of symptoms concerning behavior, cognition, emotions and relatedness. In this model of grief the goal is to give a voice to the repressed material, raise it to consciousness, and give the bearer of grief an opportunity to see what was repressed and why.

It is at this juncture of understanding that the person is said to now have a choice in the matter. As long as things rumble about in the unconscious, true choice is not really possible, as the person is acting from a repressed state and unconsciously-inspired impulses.

The Psycho Social Transition Theory of Grief

In this model change is required. This is what we call transition. Bereavement behavior requires the changing of the way we socially interface with others due to the psychological changes we have undergone with the experience of loss. Grief is not an individual ordeal, but one that involves the way we socially construct our self in the world.

Our world view is often called into contemplation and change. Grief and loss require we be different in our world and with others following a loss. It is about using the loss to usher in new understanding reflected in a psycho-social relationship.

Symptoms of Grief

Grief, bereavement, mourning, and loss are not mental health disorders or problems. They are a part of life. People experience and interpret loss in their own unique way. We never want to judge a person for the style or manner in which they deal with their losses. In this blog we are not talking about complicated grief or traumatic grief. These can become mental health disorders.

Symptoms of grief can be thought of as being divided into categories of what is felt, what is thought, what is done, and what is experienced both physiologically and psychologically.

What Is Felt?

This might include feelings such as sadness, depression, guilt, anxiety, worry, rage, irritation, despair, hopelessness, powerlessness, sorrow, fear, shame and misery. These are common emotions for loss and grief. The primary feeling is sadness.

What is Thought?

Thoughts are those things in our mind that come in a singular, plural, or chaos-like fashion. Thinking about dinner tonight? Thinking about the mammogram you need to schedule? Thinking about your child? Thinking about your recent diagnosis of cancer? Thoughts can pile up and be unbearable.

When dealing with grief following a loss, there is a tendency for thoughts to take on a life of their own. There may be racing thoughts, irrational thoughts, bizarre thoughts, evil thoughts, and thoughts that are a cause for your concern. Some people who verbalize thoughts during a grief process may be shocked to find out that others think their thought process is a bit off. It may be off. However, there is a rhythm to your grief and it may involve some pretty strange thoughts, at least over the short term. How can you tell if you are in trouble?

If you are having thoughts of suicide and the thoughts are more than a fleeting thought you likely need to consult a professional. If you are having thoughts of harming another and find these thought to be recurring, you need to speak to a professional. If you are hearing voices and they appear to be coming from outside of yourself (outside your head), you need to consult with a mental health professional.

If you cannot stop the thoughts and it is interfering with your ability to sleep, to go places, to leave the house, to function in your life, please call a professional as these are signs your brain and your thoughts are calling out to you for help. There are medication remedies, talk-remedies, support remedies, relaxation techniques, and a host of other options that can help.

More in the next blog on Loss and Grief: An Owner’s Perspective!

Take care and be well,

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo