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Understanding loss

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- This month I had planned to continue discussing the corrosive effects of negative behaviors, such as criticism, defensiveness, contempt, stonewalling, on close interpersonal relationships, but in light of recent events, a few words on grief and loss seems in order.

When relationships end suddenly due to the passing of someone close to us we experience a wide range of emotions. These emotions include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Initially we often enter into the stage of denial as we do not want to believe that our friend or loved one has passed which is a self-protective factor. In time denial might be replaced by the emotion of anger as we struggle to accept the painful reality of the loss.

We cannot accept the loss in our life and feel anger toward the person responsible for our hurt as a result. As we process loss we might also move into a stage of bargaining which is typically more closely related to our individual health concerns, but could emerge when thinking about the passing of someone close as well.

"I would do anything to get that person back into my life."

Depression can and often occurs during the grieving process as we accept the reality of the loss and struggle to pull our lives back together. It is a prevailing "heaviness" that we feel which takes away some of the enjoyable aspects of our life experience, and leaves us feeling a bit empty.

Finally along the grieving continuum comes a point of acceptance. Normally this stage occurs as a person struggles less against sadness and despair while beginning to feel better each day. It is at this stage that the wind begins to fill one's sails once again, and a growing sense of wellbeing, purpose, and hope returns.

The stages of grief are common ways we all process loss. They do not have to follow any particular order, and can appear or reappear without rhyme or reason. Healthy ways to move through the stages of grief include taking care of the basics in your life during this difficult time:

 -- Understand that the different stages of grief experienced following loss are part of the grieving process, and are in fact normal, appropriate and in some cases, healthy ways of coping with loss.

 -- Give yourselves (and others) permission to grieve. Work will still get done, households will still function. Prioritize what is important, tend to those things, and allow extra time to get them done.

 -- When you can, be sure to do engage in activities that are enjoyable as these activities will help restore balance in your life. You have just suffered a destabilizing event; fun, enjoyable activities will help to right things.

 -- Quality rest, exercise and a healthy diet will give you strength to manage the toughest of days.

 -- Support one another and look out for each other. Sharing together in friendship stories and remembrances are powerful ways to honor our loss and to heal together.

 -- Laugh. Laughter is truly the best medicine.

 -- If you have a faith base engage it for support and try not to lose hope. Faith and hope are often the only lights we can see beyond the storms of life including those of loss.

 -- As you move through difficult days reach out for help when you need it. Difficulties can arise at any time following loss; directly after or weeks later. There is no set formula to this process, so reach out whenever a need arises. Take care of yourselves, each other, and remember that time will eventually heal the sorrow you feel.