Healing from grief

Grieving is a difficult process, but the right support can help.

Katherine Day, Staff Writer

Death is a universal experience and every person will encounter the loss of a loved one at some point in their life. Individuals, influenced by factors like their culture and family, react differently to death. There are many resources that people can find, both on a personal level with friends and family, as well as on a community level, including at Los Medanos College to help them in the grieving process. 

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a psychiatrist known for her studies and theories on Thanatology, the study of death and the needs of terminally-ill patients and their families. In her book “On Death and Dying,” she theorized a model where terminally ill patients go through five stages as they are dying, which can also be applied to people grieving after a loved one has died—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

  “Where [Kübler-Ross] did not recant her five-stage process, she did recognize that we do not advance from one stage to next in a predictable, linear sequence; we weave in and out, and back and forth, as we try to deal with death,” said Jeffrey Benford, the dean of Counseling and Student Support. 

Although Kübler-Ross’s model is used widely as a base for many thanatological studies, it is true that people experience the loss of a loved one differently.

There is no one right way to grieve—it is a deeply personal process,” said Estelle Davi, a psychology faculty member at LMC. 

Additionally, according to Davi, there are various stages that families as a group may go through as they grieve a mutual loved one. These include: shock, numbness, yearning, searching, disorganization, despair, reorganization and recovery. Again, these are a baseline and do not apply perfectly to every family. Each phase may not be experienced consecutively in this order. 

There is no one right way to grieve—it is a deeply personal process.

— Estelle Davi

“Depression has a way of sneaking up on grievers as the permanence of death sets in, and it becomes too clear that nothing and no one can reverse what death has done,” said Benford. 

There are many ways for people to find support when they are grieving, from family, friends and the community. There are various resources through the LMC CARE Team, composed of the Student Wellness Program, Crisis Intervention Team, and Personal Development Counselors. 

“Although offered off campus, by a formal arrangement made by the Contra Costa Community College District, students can get support for grief through the Student Assistant Program, which connects students to therapists in the Mental Health Network,” said Benford. 

There are various ways to go about reaching out for support from friends and family. According to Benford, one can ask the people around them for permission or to let them know they won’t be their “usual self,” to practice routine and repetition of daily tasks, and to talk to people who have experienced death of a loved one, particularly seniors who have experienced this. There is support all around, and though it may be difficult at the moment to ask for help, it will always be there when people need it. 

This program and additional resources from LMC for people experiencing grief are at https://www.losmedanos.edu/counseling/comresources.aspx