The holiday season is here, but it isn’t a joyful time for everyone.
While many families anticipate feasts, presents and time with loved ones, others might feel a sense of dread, as old wounds reopen, cutting deeper than before, stinging like jalapeno juice in an eye at 8,000 Scoville heat units.
“Grief is a monster sometimes,” says Salt Lake Community College journalism and digital media student Amie Schaeffer, adding that this holiday season is going to be an emotional challenge for her.
Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves. Some days, it hits all at once, putting you on your knees. Other days, it arrives calm and shows up in a teardrop that cannot easily be explained.
“The sense of loss can be triggered not just by losing a person,” according to Claudia Eli Zeppelini Cioni, a counselor at SLCC’s Center for Health and Counseling. Zeppelini Cioni says other examples of grief may include losing a job, a relationship, or experiencing an identity shift.
Most don’t move on from grief quickly. Grief is a pain that lingers, as the memories of a loved one who died are still present, with or without the loved one’s presence.
“Grieving is a process that takes from four months to two years, and some [grief] may never be resolved depending [on] how big the loss, for example, a parent losing a child,” says Zeppelini Cioni.
Death is inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Five Stages of Grief
Denial: Denial may be recognized as you find yourself denying the situation and feeling numb. This is a state of shock and you will find yourself hoping the news is inaccurate.
Anger: This is the stage of questioning: “Why did this happen to me?” or “Life is not fair.” Your anger won’t have limits; you may find yourself aiming your anger at a specific individual or you may just release your anger randomly.
Bargaining: “I will … If my loved one returns.” This stage can be recognized as a temporary truce. You may find yourself wishing you could go back in time using “if only” statements, eventually leading to guilt. You may reach to the extent of bargaining your feelings and pain.
Depression: Following bargaining, you may find yourself seeing the true reality. Emptiness may present itself deeper as time carries on. This stage includes withdrawing, a fog of sadness, raised curiosity, including, “Is there any point in going on now?” or “Should I go on at all?”
Acceptance: This is the final stage of grief. Not in the sense of accepting that the situation is okay, but, “my loved one has passed and I will be okay.” Here emotions will stabilize and you will find yourself “re-entering” reality. The good days and bad days will still remain, but will occur less. As the fog rises, you will find yourself engaging in social situations and creating new relationships.
Zeppelini Cioni says grief is underdiagnosed and commonly shows up as depression. According to Zeppelini Cioni, signs to watch for include someone experiencing an emotional rollercoaster or someone that has moved from depression to anger.
The Art of Emotional Wellbeing takes place every week at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus. The counselor-led group is a safe environment to seek validation and learn coping skills. Join for free every Tuesday at 2 p.m.
If you are seeking a different type of care, visit the Center for Health and Counseling, which is available to all students and staff.