Loss & Grief
This assessment will look at the different types of loss an individual may experience, some examples of the stages of grief they will go through and the support that is offered through a number of organisations. This assessment will also look into the history around dealing with death in Britain and how in some cultures and religions they view death and express it in different ways.
There are many losses that would trigger grief in an individual one of them being the death of a child. This can be seen as the ultimate tragedy as no parent should outlive their child. This could be very difficult to resolve as there would be the feeling that this loss never should have happened. The relationship between a parent and their child is among the most powerful in life, as a parent their life revolves around their children no matter what age they are so there would be the sense of failure for no longer being able to care for and protect your child. It would feel like you have lost a part of yourself.
The loss of a partner would also trigger grief in an individual. Losing a partner can be life shattering, whether the death was sudden or following a long illness, that life you created together, all the hopes and dreams will have changed and you’ll now have to start planning your future as a single person again. This can lead to the feeling of loneliness as that other half of you was now gone. This can also affect your own physical and mental health especially if you are older and were very dependent on your partner you could experience depression, anxiety and it can even lower your life expectancy.
Although loss is considered to be mainly focused around death it can also come in other forms such as the loss of mobility. A person can lose their mobility through an unexpected illness, deteriorating medical condition, or in an accident. This sudden change will massively impact on the life they once led which could lead to depression as they may feel they can no longer go on with life not being able to care for themselves or do the things in life that they enjoy. There will also be the feeling of anger as they might feel they have been forced to deal with new changes including their self-image. There is also the concern about their future and what their disability might affect such as their work, daily activities and also any medical expenses that may occur.
The end of a relationship may also trigger grief in an individual as it is felt to be similar as experiencing a death. Therefore moving on from a relationship could use the same process as mourning a death. A breakup or divorce can completely disrupt your life from your daily routine to your relationships with extended family and friends and even your own identity this can all lead to uncertainty about the future and the feeling that you may never find someone else which can often seem worse than being in an unhappy relationship.
A description of theoretical models of grief.One influential theorist would be Elizabeth Kubler–Ross (cited in Thompson 2002:3) who initially “wrote of five stages that dying people were understood to go through: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This model was later extended to apply to grieving more generally…”. Not everyone will go through these stages and the order may be different for every individual.
When dealing with a loss an individual can feel in denial which can be said to be a defense mechanism as their mind has not yet processed this information. Once they have realised what they are going through is real they may feel slight anger towards the world because they feel that it shouldn’t be happening to them. Then there is the bargaining stage were many people will feel that if they change their ways then all this pain can stop it starts to be more about ‘if only…’ or ‘what if…’ which can feel like they are blaming themselves. This can cause depression for many people which is a normal response to the process of healing and is one of the many necessary steps to be taken in order to cope with the loss. The final stage is acceptance which doesn’t necessarily mean that they are now okay with what happened but rather they are learning to live with it and begin to start feeling enjoyment in life again.
This theory helps me to understand
Another influential theorist is William Worden (1991). “The work of William Worden (cited in Thompson 2002:4) sought to move beyond the stages approach and preferred to regard grieving as a matter of achieving ‘tasks’…”.Worden suggests that most people will go through four tasks when processing loss, these are acceptance, working through the pain of grief, adjusting to a changed environment and finding an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life. Worden acknowledges that if someone gets ‘stuck’ at one of the tasks it then becomes complicated grief. There are four different types of complex grief and they are; chronic, delayed, exaggerated and masked.
Chronic grief is when the grieving lasts for an extended period of time and you still feel that pain as if it only just happened. When grief has been delayed it may be because all emotions have been suppressed so that they feel strong although this doesn’t help as those feelings will only resurface later on. Exaggerated grief is an overwhelming and intense feeling of normal grief that may worsen over time; this can cause nightmares, self-destructive behaviour, alcohol or drug abuse and even suicidal thoughts. Most individuals are aware this is a result of the grief from the loss. If the person is unaware that their behaviour is linked to the loss then it is known as masked which can come in different forms such as physical symptoms which is pain or illnesses or it could be expressed through negative behaviours.
This theory helps me to understand that I have been feeling exaggerated grief for the past eight years. When I was fifteen I was raped by two men I was still a virgin at the time so this is something they took away from me. I was too young to fully understand what rape was my mind was confused by it all. My way of coping with anything is to not show any emotion of how I’m really feeling inside when I’m around people. For years I would self harm and feel like I didn’t want to be alive it’s something that has never fully gone away. I am now twenty three and have still never spoke about it, part of me still blames myself for what happened. I didn’t realise how much this was affecting me as there were so many other things going on in my life I was already suffering with depression so I didn’t see this as any change to how I was feeling. I have struggled to let people get close to me, I go for people who don’t treat me right and I end up feeling at my lowest when I’m in a relationship as I don’t see myself good enough for anyone. I’ve ended up suffering with body dysmorphia which is something I don’t think will ever go away.
The legal and other procedures to be followed in the event of a death in a care setting are as follows;
In a hospital the legal steps that must be taken are firstly a member of staff would need to contact the next of kin to inform them of the passing and for them to come in and identify the person. The next of kin may need to give permission for a post-mortem examination if the cause of death has to be confirmed, they will also need to inform the hospital if the person who has died wanted to donate their organs or their body to medical science. If not then the body will now be laid out in the hospital mortuary until a family member arranges for the funeral directors or for the body to be taken home. The hospital staff will keep all belongings of the deceased until a family member comes to collect them which then they will be given a receipt for. The doctor at the hospital should then provide you with a medical certificate that shows the cause of death which you would need to take to a local register office as proof of the death this must be done within five days as it is a criminal offence not to report it.
If someone has died at home and the death was expected and the person had been seen by the doctor within the past fourteen days then all that would need to happen would be to inform the doctor who would then provide you with a medical certificate. Usually if a death occurred out of hospital donations of organs for transplant are not possible but you may still be able to donate tissues. If the death is unexpected then you should phone the emergency services straight away, check the persons pulse but do not move them or touch anything that is around as it could be evidence in case the death is due to violence or accidental. The police will arrange for the body to be moved by a funeral director acting for the coroner although if found the death to be expected then a family member can call the funeral director whenever they are ready to do so.
There are a range of agencies that can offer support to those that are bereaved.
One voluntary organisation being The Miscarriage Association which helps to support and provide information to anyone that has suffered from a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy. Miscarriage Association (No Date) aim to not only give support to someone going through a miscarriage but to also help anyone that has ever experienced it no matter how long ago that may have happened. They will also provide information to anyone that is pregnant that might be worried about their signs or symptoms or even the lack of them. This can give peace of mind for anyone that is waiting for their next scan or this could even be for someone else you are concerned about. The Miscarriage Association run support groups throughout the UK and also have groups online for anyone who wants to remain anonymous.
Another voluntary agency that offers support to the bereaved is CHAS which is children’s hospices across Scotland.
CHAS (2018) have been around for over twenty years offering care and support for young children from birth to eighteen years who have a short life expectancy due to ill health. They are devoted in making sure that however long they spend together “it is a time filled with happiness and fun”. They not only support the children but the families as well which begins at the early stages of the child’s diagnosis. This support is continued throughout and long after the death of the child. They show this in many ways by offering one to one support, accessing support in the local community, anniversary cards and also holding remembering days.
The emotional support that may be required in care practice setting.
To be able to offer emotional support to a service user you must show empathy, compassion and a genuine concern for the person’s wellbeing. You should see them as an individual and not their condition. This will help to understand the person better and will start to build up a relationship. Some ways that a care worker could do this is by showing the service user respect by listening and accepting what they are saying, also by asking them first before you do anything such as if it is okay for you to sit next to them or to touch them to show that you care and are here to help. The care setting should be supportive, non judgmental and be in a safe environment this would benefit the service user as it will encourage them to open up and express their feelings and discover their own potential.
The impact of a death for social care staff.
A care worker may also need emotional support when dealing with a death this can be shown through the managers providing them with the right training so that they can handle the death appropriately and be able to continue on their work. Having a strong team to work with will be beneficial as it can show that they support each other especially at challenging times. For the staff individually they should be trained to cope with the demands and be able to understand the roles and responsibilities, they should also be aware that any stress can be reported and that there will be support available if needed. Self-care can be difficult when a care worker is focusing so much on caring for someone else it is easy to forget to look after themselves as well but once that life balance is found it should become easier. They should be able to build up positive, professional relationships which in return will give them that support to carry on.
Traditions around death and dying in Britain have changed dramatically over the past hundred years. This is significantly due to the decline of religion, the two world wars and the medical revolution beginning in the 1930s. During the 19th and early 20th century if a death had taken place the body would be kept in the family home with all the family present including the children. The preparation of the body would be carried out by the family this is known as ‘layer-out’ which involved undressing and washing the body it was also a tradition to place coins on the eyelids and a bandage under the chin to hold these parts closed many believed that if the eyes of the deceased lay open then another death would occur. According to National Library Scotland (2018) ‘Death provoked embarrassment and uncertainty, and grew increasingly taboo. With tremendous medical advances in the mid-20th century, death was viewed as a medical failure rather than a natural end.’ After the Second World War death was now regarded as morbid and the dying or deceased was moved from the family home to the hospital and undertakers. To this day death is mainly tended to by professionals.
The rights and practices of major religions.Buddhism is a tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development which explores the true meaning of life. Buddhists believe that your existence is endless because individuals are reincarnated over and over again. When experiencing a death all family and friends would sit with the dying person to reflect on his/her good deeds in this life which will affect on how their life will be in their next incarnation. The body of the deceased is not to be touched or disturbed in any way as Buddhists believe that the soul doesn’t leave the body immediately after the breathing stops. A cremation is most common to have but a burial is also accepted and to hold a memorial service it would traditionally be held on the third, seventh, forty-ninth and one-hundredth day after the death.
Christianity is the faith that focuses on Jesus Christ. When a Christian is dying a priest or minister will visit them to pray and to help them prepare for death. In the past it was often a burial that would happen as Christians believed that if the person was cremated then they would not be resurrected on the Day of Judgment. However now it is believed that it is a spiritual body rather than a physical body after death, therefore today it is often a person’s own preference to whether they are buried or cremated. At the funeral or memorial candles would be lit to remind people that Jesus was the light of the world and that because of Jesus, Christians could be saved from their sins and go to heaven.
Judaism is the religion of Jewish people. When a Jewish person dies the preparation for the funeral happens quickly. The body gets washed and is covered in a white shroud and their prayer shawl which would have the fringes cut off to show that they are now free of the religious laws. The body would then be placed in a plain wooden coffin ready for the funeral which would be a burial as cremation is not allowed. After the funeral the family has a mourning ritual that would last seven days. During this time a candle will be lit and the mirrors in the house are covered they also do not shave or cut their hair. For the next eleven months a prayer is said everyday for the dead person and then on remembered each year on their anniversary by lighting a candle.
Hinduism is the religion of the majority of people in India and Nepal. Unlike other religions they do not believe in one single founder, scripture and there is no commonly agreed set of teachings. When a Hindu has passed away they are usually cremated as they believe that this will help their soul to escape quickly from the body. If the death happens in Britain the body will be placed in a coffin and taken to the crematorium but if in India then many people wish to have their funeral on the shores of the sacred river Ganga, which there the body will be placed on a pile of wood and a fire will be lit. From this the ashes will be either sprinkled on the waters of the Ganga or taken to the sea near to where they live. The process of mourning will then begin which will last twelve days.
Jehovah Witness is a new religious movement that is Christian based. Members believe that only Jehovah’s witnesses will be saved at the end of the world but only the most faithful. They believe that there is a heaven but not a hell and unlike other religions they see death as not only of the physical body but the death of the soul as well. When a funeral takes place it is simple they see it as it should be similar to the one that was held for Jesus Christ and that there should be no wakes or celebrations.
Non-religious responses to death.
Humanism is a belief that is mainly focused around science, evidence and reason. A humanist believes that life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural event with no supernatural side. They believe in no after life so when a death happens they see this as nature’s way of cleansing to make way for new life. According to Funeral Wise (2018) “Humanists believe that an individual’s happiness and experiences are engraved into history. The deceased will live through the memories and experiences that his loved ones hold in their hearts”. The humanist funeral is expressed by family and friends as a closure to the relationship once shared with the deceased. There are normally no poems or hymns read at the funeral but rather a reading that addresses the nature of death and the connection that humans share with the earth.
Paganism is a spiritual religion that is mainly focused on nature and our relationship with earth and the universe. A pagan does not believe that there is only one god but rather there are thousands of gods and goddesses that you can follow which would be a person’s own individual choice. There is no place of worship but rather it is encouraged that pagans spend time outside with all the creations of Mother Nature. Many Pagans believe that when there is a death the spirit of the deceased joins together with nature. The funeral is similar to a traditional one which includes a eulogy, poems and prayers to the gods and goddesses. Although a pagan funeral may also include the four elements which are often a major aspect of their beliefs which are Air in the East, Fire in the South, Water in the West and Earth in the North, this would be implemented by a person standing at each corner and giving thanks to the element.
Thompson, N (2002). Loss and Grief. Hampshire: Palgrave. p3.
Thompson, N. (2002). Loss and Grief. Hampshire: Palgrave. p4.
CHAS. (2018). Children’s Hospices Across Scotland. Available: https://www.chas.org.uk/. Last accessed 29th Oct 2018.
Funeral Wise. (2018). Humanist Funeral Service Ritual. Available: https://www.funeralwise.com/customs/humanist/. Last accessed 25th Oct 2018.
Miscarriage Association. (No Date). How we help. Available: https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/how-we-help/our-support-services/. Last accessed 28th Oct 2018.
National Library of Scotland. (2018). Morbid Curiosity: Death and Dying. Available: https://www.nls.uk/learning-zone/politics-and-society/morbid-curiosity. Last accessed 25th Oct 2018.