August 30th: National Grief Awareness Day
Following the tragedy at Pulse nightclub, many Orlando residents are experiencing a common grief as we come together to heal our City Beautiful. Many of us have experienced waves of different emotions– anger, sorrow, disbelief, and deep sadness to name a few. Grieving is a uniquely individual process, therefore the needs of each person are uniquely different.
However, there are common psychological trends an individual may experience. National Grief Awareness Day, on August 30th, seeks to bring communities together in the grieving process. The National Grief Awareness Day committee, spearheaded by Angie Cartwright, understands that extreme feelings are common reactions to traumatic events. The goal of the awareness day is to bring light to the idea that supporting each other through a crisis will bring healing.
One first attempt at creating a community around grieving came from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who noticed a pattern among her terminally ill patients. She developed the Kubler-Ross model of grief in 1969 as a part of her book On Death and Dying. The theory was later applied to personal losses and traumas.
Though frequently interpreted as a linear model, the idea is rather to express a group of fluid emotions that may be experienced at any time in the grieving process. As Kubler-Ross herself said, “I have loved and lost, and I am more than these five stages. And so are you.” The point of the model is to provide comfort, and to offer those who are grieving with some expectation of what they may experience while grieving.
These are some of the most common emotions Kubler-Ross saw her patients experience:
Kubler–Ross observed that many of her patients reacted to news of trauma with shock and denial. This stage may manifest in statements such as, “This isn’t possible!” or “I refuse to believe this.” In more extreme cases, the individual may ignore the news.
Frustration and anger are common when dealing with grief, as an individual deals with their loss. The individual may seem short tempered, or unpredictable.
The mourner may try to make deals with the universe or a deity to bring back their loved one.
A deep sadness, lasting over two weeks, may set in for the mourner, and he or she may need professional help. Talk therapy and prescriptions can help.
A final stage of grief is the acceptance that a loved one has passed. This can take a varied amount of time, depending on the mourner, and should not be rushed. It is important to realize that not everyone will experience all these emotions, experience them in the same order, and sometimes can switch back and forth between two emotions, like anger and depression.
If you are grieving and experience any of these more common emotions, or experience feelings you may not have expected, don’t worry. However, if at any point in the grieving process your emotions become overwhelming, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Any of the community organizations we highlighted here can provide help, or you can reach out to someone to discuss talk therapy.
And remember, while there are no right or wrong ways to grieve, there is always someone out there to support you if you don’t want to be alone. That is the mission of National Grief Awareness Day, and at Orlando Health, we are here to support you.