Understanding Grief

Many people expect to grieve the death of a loved one, but not everyone understands that other changes in our lives can cause us to experience a similar cycle of grief. Consider the following examples:

  • A man is injured by a drunk driver on his way home from work, resulting in the loss of his leg and permanent spinal damage. He must apply for Social Security disability.
  • A woman is laid off after 22 years with the same manufacturing company.
  • A worker is injured on the job. He is on workers’ comp for 10 months. When he returns to work, he is no longer able to do the same type of work as before.
  • A shopper is attacked in a poorly lit parking lot. She is now afraid to leave her home.
  • A couple with three children divorces after 15 years of marriage.

What do all these examples have in common? They all result in major, stressful life changes for the person – or families – involved. In our law practice, we see individuals dealing with grief every day. In reality, we should expect the person(s) to grieve the loss of life as it was before.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross hypothesized that there are five stages of grief that individuals must go through. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. If you have ever been severely injured in a car accident, hurt on the job, the victim of a criminal attack, gone through a divorce, or otherwise had a major life change, you probably recognize these stages of grief. The stages can occur in any order, and may last varying amounts of time.

Some individuals are able to process their grief and move on quickly, while others may remain depressed and unable to cope for long periods of time. The important thing is to recognize that big changes – whether you have initiated them or are expecting them or not – can be difficult to accept and get through. It is also important to ask for help if you need it, and for others to recognize when their loved ones are unable to move past grief on their own and help them to obtain professional aid. In most case, having the support of family and friends will help you get through your grief. And if you do need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

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