Grief has long been broken down into stages. One cycle made famous by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., uses the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But researchers have shown that stages don’t always apply. Camille Wortman, Ph.D., and Roxane Cohen Silver, Ph.D., found several individual patterns. For example, some people suffer interminable grief, and others show no distress at all.
In fact, avoiding grief sometimes helps recovery. George Bonanno, Ph.D., of Columbia University, found that those who repressed grief were psychologically and physically healthier six and 14 months after their losses than others who grieved more. Although that’s a surprising discovery, it’s not to be confused with denial.
The recovery period can also vary widely. While some people recover in a year, there are those who find the second year to be much worse. According to Theresa Rando, Ph.D., of the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss, people who suffer abrupt loss can find the second year of bereavement harder than the first. When a person dies suddenly, the mourner learns the reality of their loss by having the need for the loved one repeatedly frustrated. These people may enter a state of shock that delays recovery, often for extended lengths of time.
Even when male and female grievers are compared, there are patterns and differences. A University of Kentucky survey found that men grieve in a way that does not seem like grieving. While women talk and cry, men think and act. Men, for example, often mourn the death of their fathers by taking action. When 46-year-old Neil Mose’s father died, Mose took up the martial art wing chun. His father practiced the art every morning at dawn, and Mose learned to do the same.
Author Lybi Ma
Here are helpful tips if you are assisting a grieving friend:
- Don’t force your method of grieving: Respect what the person wants.
- Avoid minimizing the loss: Never tell the person to “get over it.”
- Be a better listener: Be aware of your feelings; and know you can’t solve the problem.
- Be with the mourner: You just have to be there with the person.