WSSU

New Book on Coping with Grief says Millions may be affected and not be aware

Elizabeth Fain

Elizabeth Fain

February 10, 2011
Today’s economic times with wide-spread massive lay offs, home foreclosures, threats of global unrest and other personally stressful situations are causing record numbers of people to experience grief that is comparable to the loss of a spouse or close family member, according to a Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) instructor and author.

    Similar to the loss of a relative, individuals who receive news of their layoff are likely to experience a series of painful and surprising emotions, which are the common symptoms of grief, which can be more debilitating because of its extensive impact.  These include shock and denial, disbelief, sadness, guilt, anger and fear.  In addition, they may even face physical affects such as weight loss or gain, fatigue, impatience, physical pain and insomnia.

    “Tens of millions of people are suffering from various forms of grief and don’t realize it,” said Elizabeth Fain, WSSU instructor of occupational therapy.  “And even those who may recognize the symptoms may not know how to get help because when they try, they find themselves dealing with the many health care professionals and friends who aren’t equipped to help,” says Fain, who is also author of the new book, “Good Grief: A Care Map for the Grief Journey,” by Jebiare publishing.  The book is a guide to assist those going through grief, whether it is as the bereaved or a friend of the bereaved.

    There are five stages of grief people should expect to experience on the road to recovery:  denial, anger, bargaining such as “if this is fixed, I promise I will . . . ,”  depression and finally acceptance.  In that final stage, individuals accept that the loss is real and begin making decisions to move forward dealing with the loss.

    “Understanding the journey and when you arrive at each stage can be extremely helpful,” said Fain.  She recommends seeking counseling, having religious faith and maintaining supportive friends as well as emotionally preparing for anniversaries and other triggers to these memories.

    Grief may be defined as an emotional and physical reaction when something or someone people love or value is taken away.  It can range from changes in financial lifestyle or divorce, to loss of health or physical capacity, any of which may lead to the loss of the ability to obtain a dream.  The most severe cases of grief usually include the loss of a spouse, child, or other close relative.  

    Layoffs, however, have become a top cause of severe grief in recent years.  The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1,283 mass layoffs (of at least 50 people) involving 137,992 workers seasonally adjusted in December 2010.   For 2010, nearly 2 million people were laid off, which was down from 2009 totals.  In addition to the initial shock, these events threaten financial stability, possibly causing temporary changes in current lifestyle, retirement and the ability to obtain a dream in a financial way, just as in cases of the death of a spouse or close relative, Fain said.  

    Other top causes of grief include loss of a pet, loss of a sense of safety after a trauma such as 9-11, or the loss of the perceived ability to obtain a long-time dream.  Currently, Egyptian- American families of those living and demonstrating in Egypt may be experiencing wide-spread grief due to the unrest in that country.  

    There is no quick relief to grief.  The process can take up to two years or more, says Fain who herself suffered the loss of two children.  However without help, the process can last longer, she noted.

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