Column: Coping with grief and loss

By MARY RUTH BRANSTETTER
Youth First Inc.

Grief is one of the most intense, sacred, painful and intimate emotions humans are capable of feeling. Most people associate grief with the death of a loved one or a close personal friend. For some, especially children, grief can be associated with the passing of a family pet, which is often their first experience with death.

Sometimes people use the words death and loss interchangeably, but loss can also mean the loss of anything carrying importance or value. Loss may be associated with something as simple as misplacing a favorite pen given to you by someone special. Loss can also be experienced when an academic year or athletic season is canceled or interrupted.

When we experience grief, sometimes we try to sidestep the emotion. However, it is only a matter of time before grief catches up with you and knocks the wind out of you, blows you over and smacks you in the face. That is the power of grief. There is no way to get under it or around it. You have to go through it to heal from it.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross, one of the pioneers who researched and studied grief, identified five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. It is important to remember that no one goes through these stages in a nice neat order. Each stage may look different depending on your age, life experience, and personality. Grief induced sadness or depression might look like acting out for a child.

If you experience the stages of grief once, that does not mean you may not revisit one or more of the stages again at other times in your life. This is especially true around special anniversary dates and/or holidays.

These are just a few of the reasons why grief is such a powerful emotion and must be worked through and not ignored. Grief will find a way to make its presence known emotionally, mentally, physically, and/or spiritually.

Reach out to others for help, be it friends, family, a pastor or another professional such as a therapist or counselor. It is OK to cry. Do not be afraid to let others know you are hurting. Your vulnerability may be a gift to someone else who is feeling the same way but is too afraid or hurt to share their pain. Most importantly, remember there is no right or wrong timeline for working through grief and loss.

Mary Ruth Branstetter, LCSW, LCAC, RPT, is a Youth First social worker at Saint Joe Catholic School and Saint Wendel Catholic School in Vanderburgh and Posey Counties. Youth First Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families. Youth First provides 78 master's level social workers to 105 schools in 12 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First's school social work and after-school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.




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