Grief is rampant
Currently in Nova Scotia, we have several counties that are dealing with forest fires. While there is much mutual aid from other volunteer fire departments across the province, and from other areas of Canada and the USA, there is also much destruction and loss. The number of people who had been evacuated, or told to be ready at a moment's notice to be ready to evacuate from their homes are in the thousands. Some had to flee and leave everything behind, including their pets. Many people have found out that their homes have burnt to the ground, others have fire damage. Those who were able to return to their homes after mandatory evacuation orders are returning to their own chaos (e.g., no electricity, spoiled food, etc.). Pets are being reunited in many cases but not all by various agencies who are working hard to do so. The losses are great, grief is rampant.
The most basic way of defining grief is that grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss.
Although the grief is most often associated with a loss of loved one, it can be experienced after any of the following loss:
Loss of health
Loss of a job
Loss of financial stability
Loss of a relationship (e.g. separation, divorce, or from a death)
Expiry of a pet
Loss of a dream
Loss of a friend
Loss of a home
There are five different non-linear phases that you may experience throughout your grief process, as suggested by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. They are:
I came across an article that outlines the concept of grief attacks. "Dr. Robert Neimeyer, clinical psychologist and professor of Psychology at the University of Memphis, characterizes grief attacks as reminders that you’re trying to integrate the reality of the death of a loved one into the ongoing story of your life. Grief attacks can range in type and severity, Neimeyer says, from very profound and unsettling, like a night terror, to a small wave of nostalgia that is tinged with sadness. Whether they’re minor or severe, grief attacks are often filled with anxiety."
Grief attacks are often triggered by events that remind you of your loved one, such as birthdays, holidays, or anniversaries. But they can also be triggered by sounds, smells, or feelings, like “associations that arise in conversations, overhearing their favorite song on the radio, or smelling their perfume,” Neimeyer says.
According to Neimeyer, the best strategies for coping with grief attacks are those that allow you to achieve a sense of control over your emotions. Grief panic attacks can be an integral part of coming to terms with a loss, so it’s important not to hide from them or push them away. Instead, Neimeyer suggests trying to control the way grief attacks occur, such as allotting time into your schedule to sit with your grief. That way, you can prevent grief attacks from blindsiding you at inconvenient or distressing times. Other suggestions were grief journaling, grief meditation or having an internal dialogue with your loved one. Seeking help may become necessary for some. Grief counselling/psychotherapy have proven useful.
In conclusion, as Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.”. We all can play a role in helping people deal with grief, even if it is just taking time to listen, donate money or supplies, volunteer at a comfort station. There are so many ways so please find one that works for you.
www.gwic.com Understanding and coping with grief attacks Strategies for understanding and coping with grief panic attacks after a loss By Audrey Carleton