Grief & bereavement
It’s an existential given that losing someone or something special is part of life. It can be a divorce, a death, or loss of a dream. Sometimes we are prepared for our losses, at other times not. Sometimes, we can find meaning and comfort in our losses; but mostly, we can’t.
Sometimes, grief can take a deep and debilitating grip on people. And although grief and bereavement are natural emotional responses to losses, it’s important to reach out for therapeutic help if you feel that you or a loved one are stuck in grief. It’s possible to work through the emotions of grief, integrate the loss in your life and again feel meaning and joy.
How many stages of grief are there?
With all losses comes grief. A process which has been described and much debated since 1969 where Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. With today’s psychological knowledge, we know and accept that everyone grieves differently, that not everyone goes through all stages of grief, and that these are not necessarily a linear process, but that one can go back and forth between different stages several times.
When grieving, it’s normal to feel a spectrum of emotions going from initial confusion, denial, and fear to frustration, irritation, and anger. Many struggle to find meaning with life, feel lonely, and experience a profound sense of sadness. Some find themselves bargaining and blame themselves that if only they had done so and so, their beloved one may not have died or left. For some, grief turns into depression with feelings of helplessness, hostility and overwhelm before the loss is integrated into life and it becomes manageable to move forward again.
Just as well as it’s important to remember that everyone grieves differently, it’s important to be mindful that there is no time limit to “getting over someone”.
Grieving as an expat
For expats, suffering bereavement and being far away from friends and family bring an additional layer of loss to the grieving process. You might not be able to be part of the support network back home, having people around who are also suffering the same bereavement. Maybe you’re not even able to attend the funeral. During the covid-19 crisis, I published this blogpost on grief in expats.
It’s not just bereavement that is more challenging for expats. Going through other losses such as divorce, redundancy, or loss of functions due to illness or an accident can be extra difficult as an expat. Far away from your usual support network and in a country where you might not be familiar with the system, understand the local language, or receive the same treatment as you would back home.
This is why, it is even more important to reach out for help as a grieving expat.