Grief is something most of us are familiar with. Childhood pets, world events, the loss of a loved one, and even the events of the past two years can all be sources of immense grief. Coping with grief is often thought of as an isolated process, or one that involves focusing on grief alone, but grief frequently is accompanied by change, and learning to cope with change can have a hand in lessening symptoms of grief. To fully understand how grief and change interact, it is vital to understand the different types of grief and how they differ from one another.
Long-Term Versus Short-Term Grief
Long-term grief is most commonly associated with the loss of a loved one and a disorder called prolonged grief disorder, while short-term grief is typically associated with a specific loss, and symptoms that drift away or lessen over time. The symptoms of each are similar in their effects, but differ in their severity and duration. The common symptoms include:
- Feelings of overwhelm and guilt.
- Prolonged sadness.
- Bargaining thoughts and behaviors.
- Physical symptoms, such as nausea.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Changes in dietary habits.
- Feelings of isolation.
Although not all of these symptoms will be present in either type of grief, they are common to the grieving process. In short-term grief, these symptoms will likely resolve on their own after the person has processed their loss or the source of grief. These symptoms may not rise and leave in a linear pattern, but may spike and fall several times.
Long-term grief may involve all of the symptoms above, with an important difference: the duration and depth of those feelings. Long-term grief symptoms may not resolve quickly or easily, and may involve more substantial feelings of guilt, devastation, or even hopelessness, which can lead to additional diagnoses and symptoms. To learn more about symptoms and the effects of loneliness, read some of the peer-reviewed articles by BetterHelp, available here.
The Ins and Outs of Grief
Grief is a multi-faceted experience, and it does not impact any two people in exactly the same way. For some, grief is accepted quietly and quickly, and becomes a part of daily life, while for others, grief is practically incapacitating, and escalates into something that can thoroughly derail day-to-day living. The ins and outs of grief differ from person to person, but they do embody common themes, including a sense of loss, frustration or anger, and persistent feelings of sadness. Grief can last a matter of days, as might be the case when you are passed over for a coveted position at work, or may be more prolonged, as is likely to be the case when you’ve lost a loved one to illness. Grief can come with a loss of any kind, and is not focused entirely on losing a person or a relationship.
Where Grief and Change Intersect
Grief and change frequently intersect, because a loss of any kind usually results in some kind of change. The loss of a loved one to illness necessitates a change in routines, whether those routines involve a live-in partner, or a grandparent on the opposite coast. The loss of a job means changes to income, changes to networks, and changes to daily habits. The loss of a close friendship also comes with changes, such as who you reach out to in a moment of crisis or need. Because grief nearly always comes along with a significant change, grief and change intersect frequently and managing reactions to change can be a useful way to manage symptoms of grief.
Coping with Change
Coping with change often means developing a plan of action related to the change (or changes) that are set to occur. If, for instance, a job loss is imminent, creating a plan to dip into savings, search for other positions, and manage the loss of one social network can help mitigate some of the feelings of grief that may be associated with that loss. If a relationship is dissolved, making a plan to divide assets and time and manage any lingering relationships or interactions that must occur can help soothe some of the feelings of grief and loss that are associated with parting with a loved one. While adequately coping with change cannot bring a loved one back, or erase the pain of loss, it can help smooth transitions and ease the passage from the life, habits, and rituals you had prior to your loss and a life living with grief.