As human beings, we all face moments of loss in one way or another. Drawing from a study by James (2008), it may take several months or even years for an individual or family that has experienced a loss to finally recover. It is also possible that the trauma that is caused by a particular loss may last for the rest of a person or family’s life. This notwithstanding, there are strategies that may be adopted by the affected people to mitigate the effect of any loss encountered.
Bereavement, grief, and mourning are three vital components of crisis intervention in the event of a personal loss (James, 2008). This paper provides a general overview of personal loss and how affected individuals can cope with the resultant losses. Two components of crisis intervention, bereavement and grief will be discussed.
Types of Loss
Usually, crisis intervention personnel are expected to deal with different types of loss. Considering that the challenges faced by individuals largely depend on the type of loss encountered, it is imperative for crisis intervention personnel to have varied skills in order to succeed in their undertakings. The death of a child is one type of a loss that one may encounter (Crosetto & Garcha, 2012). Without a doubt, this is a very painful loss and one that leaves the affected person at a big loss. Regardless of the stage at which the death of a child takes place, it is very traumatic for parents.
According to James (2008), job loss is another type of loss that may be encountered by a person. For some people having a prestigious job is extremely important. Depending on the level of importance an individual places on his or her job therefore, loss might translate into some serious repercussions.
Although there are many reasons for losing one’s job, losing a job for no apparent reason is considered to be very disturbing. Loss may also be as a result of separation between two people who love each other and subsequent divorce. As noted by James (2008), loss may also come as a result of the death of a pet.
What are Bereavement and Grief?
Bereavement refers to an individual’s reaction to the loss of a person closely related to him or her (Myers, 2006). It is a state of being dispossessed usually caused by the death of a beloved one. Bereavement is also a human being’s way of adjusting to a major loss. Ostensibly, bereavement is a common reaction that all human beings have to go through in order to adapt to a loss (Heilman, 2005). In general, the greatness of the bereavement is dictated by the depth of the relationship.
To a certain extent, bereavement is regarded as the cost of emotional commitment. While bereavement is simply a reaction, what follows it is usually a lengthy process that involves emotions and sadness that collectively, are referred to grief. Generally, grief is a biological feeling that normally experienced as a result of bereavement. It includes social expressions that are collectively known as mourning.
Both bereavement and grief are part of a process that occurs over a very long period of time. Unlike other crisis intervention situations, managing bereavement after a personal loss is generally very sensitive. In addition, variations exist from one society to another (Heilman, 2005). Handling grief on the other hand tends to be common across societies. As pointed out by Myers (2006), bereavement and grief are normal experiences for all human beings. Apparently, these experiences are individual and highly individualized.
To a large extent, experiences differ from one person to another. In spite of this fact, grief has been looked at as a kind of illness by some people. To a certain extent, this may be true considering that grief is a very painful condition that interferes with a person’s ability to function effectively in everyday activities. Among the symptoms that come with grief include loss of appetite, lack of sleep, loss of weight, and severe anguish. For some people, regarding grief as illness ignores a number of important issues that happen during process of grief.
Dealing with Bereavement and Grief
Various models exist for dealing with bereavement and grief. However, the two commonly used models are the Kubler-Ross model and the Schneider model. Based on the Kubler-Ross model, there are certain reactions that people have to go through as they struggle to cope with bereavement and grief. Seemingly, this model was designed to be used to educate caregivers and family members about the feelings of patients and how they would like to be treated.
The first stage is denial and isolation which according to Kubler-Ross is a good way of dealing with news that is not very comfortable. In a way, denial is seen as a form of protection against painful news. It is imperative for caregivers as well as family members to be aware of this so as to be of help to the affected individuals. The next thing that follows after denial and isolation is anger.
Usually, individuals in this category are those who have realized that being in denial does not help. Instead, they tend to resort to anger, hostility, and resentment. While caregivers often encounter difficulties dealing with individuals who are in this stage, anger is generally a normal adaptation. It is important for caregivers and family members to realize that people at this point require attention and respect. In addition, these individuals seek to be understood.
The next stage is the bargaining stage which involves individuals demonstrating their quest for longer life. Apparently, it is a deliberate attempt by he affected individuals to push their death a little further. Rather than criticize the behavior, caregivers and family members are advised to take time to listen to the affected individuals with a view of getting to understand where they are coming from. It may be helpful for the affected individual to openly agree to deal with guilt or any other charges that are not visible.
Depression is the next thing in the model. It is possible for depression to assume one of two states. While reactive depression is associated with the fact that the loss can not be evaded, preparatory depression leads the affected individuals to start thinking about giving up everything. At this juncture, caregivers and family members are expected to demonstrate love and care to the affected individuals.
It is advisable for caregivers to use very few words or no words at all when taking care of the affected persons. Arguably, any attempts to do so may end up interfering with the individual’s preparatory grieving. Based on the model, the final stage is acceptance.
The Schneider model looks at the transformational stages of grief (James, 2008). The eight stage model is designed to create an atmosphere of peace during the moment of bereavement and grief. In general, it incorporates various aspects of an individual’s response to loss. The first stage involves being aware of the loss and usually includes physical, behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual dimensions.
Naturally, a person who has just experienced loss would appear shocked, confused or detached on learning about a particular loss. Certainly, it is important for caregivers and family members to understand the importance of this stage and to help the affected persons in whatever way possible to recognize the loss. The next stage is characterized by attempts to limit the awareness about the loss.
Ordinarily, the affected individual is expected to focus more on the positive aspects of the loss rather than the looking at the negative repercussions associated with a loss. For effective crisis management, it is imperative for caregivers are expected to ensure that a healthy and positive environment does exist to support the affected person. To a large extent, this stage enables the affected person to meditate upon the loss and figure out the way forward.
It also helps an individual to limit his or her feelings of desperation and hopelessness. In general, positive thinking enables the affected individuals to experience a healthy life (Crosetto & Garcha, 2012). The next stage has to do with making efforts to limit awareness about a loss by simply letting go. Ostensibly, the ability to let go is seen as a means of identifying one’s limit with regard to a particular loss.
The purpose of this stage is to ensure that individuals are able to detach themselves from the loss suffered. Individuals may experience feelings of depression, rejection, and anxiety among others. This is followed by being aware of the extent of the loss encountered. Apparently, this is the most challenging stage that an affected individual has to go through. The next stage is characterized by the affected individual gaining perspective about the loss.
Typically, a person gets to a point where he or she accepts what has happened. Usually, the acceptance of a loss that has already occurred is regarded as a useful strategy of reducing the impact of what follows after the loss occurs. Behaviors and emotions exhibited by affected persons during this time include but are not limited to solitude, openness, and acceptance.
This stage is followed by resolving the loss that has occurred. In normal circumstances, success is seen when the affected person finally opts to pursue others things that are completely unrelated to the loss he or she suffered. The stage is usually characterized by forgiveness and peacefulness. The next stage is concerned with the reformulation of a loss in order to realize personal growth. The affected individual teds to be curious and usually exhibits better forbearance for pain.
The final stage has to do with the transformation of a loss into a higher level. A remarkable characteristic of this stage is the ability of the affected person to effectively understand and accept the loss that has occurred. Seemingly, this leads to growth and development for an affected individual.
As can be deduced from the two models discussed in this paper, it is obvious that caregivers must be devoted to developing strategies that can be bear real fruit as far as helping individuals cope with loss is concerned. As pointed out by Crosetto and Garcha (2012), it is imperative for caregivers and family members to ensure that an environment exists that compels the affected persons to think in a positive way. Research indicates that negative thinking is a recipe for serious repercussions.
However, before crisis intervention workers embark on helping affected people, it is critical for them to be fully prepared for the job. As previously explained, caregivers ability to understand what the affected individuals are going through is a vital requirement for any success to be realized during the care process.
Failure to fully prepare caregivers for success in their jobs can easily lead to pressure, stress, trauma and numerous problems at a later time. As noted by Walter and McCoyd (2009), caregivers may become depressed and exhausted if they take up the responsibility of caring for affected persons without going through a rigorous preparation process. The need for better preparation can therefore not be overestimated.
Undoubtedly, personal loss experiences are tough moments that require well designed intervention strategies in order to protect the affected persons. Without an elaborate plan in place to take care of those who have been affected, the recovery process may be quite lengthy and the affected individuals may even fail to return to their original state before the occurrence of a loss.
As has been explained therefore, it is imperative for caregivers to be fully equipped before engaging in any rescue mission. Certainly, failure to do so may lead to serious repercussions in the long run.
Crosetto, A. & Garcha, R. (2012). Death, Loss, and Grief in Literature for Youth: A Selective Annotated Bibliography for K-12. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press.
Heilman, S. C. (2005). Death, Bereavement, and Mourning. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
James, R. K. (2008). Crisis Intervention Strategies (6th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Brooks/Cole.
Myers, E. (2006). Teens, Loss, and Grief: The Ultimate Teen Guide. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press.
Walter, C. A. & McCoyd, J. L. M. (2009). Grief and Loss across the Lifespan: A Biopsychosocial Perspective. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.