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“Rossiyskaya Gazeta”: How to Survive a Loss and Continue to Live in Joy. Advice from Psychologists

“Rossiyskaya Gazeta”: How to Survive a Loss and Continue to Live in Joy. Advice from Psychologists

Самарский университет

Konstantin Lisetsky, a professor at Samara University, and Albina Zaripova, a practicing master of psychology, answer the questions of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta

15.03.2024 2024-04-03
Life does not consist of joys alone, because if there were no trials in it, a person would never have learned to distinguish light from darkness, pain from comfort, important from vanity. He would not be able to appreciate what was given, even if it was lost, and feel gratitude to the departed for the time he lived with them. But, having accepted grief as an inevitable component of being, there are always questions about how to survive this process with the least loss to mental and physical health and, if possible, come out stronger and wiser. Konstantin Lisetsky, a Doctor of Psychology, Professor at Samara University, and Albina Zaripova, a practicing master of psychology, answer our questions.

There are always plenty of reasons for grief – Afghanistan, the Chechen war, "SVO". Loved ones die or return with injuries. The state provides such families with financial assistance, as they say, but it remains unclear where to put their wounded soul. At the same time, the everyday advice "Do not grieve, everything will pass!" for a person immersed in grief, works exactly the opposite.

Konstantin Lisetsky: You are absolutely right, a person must experience any emotions, otherwise, "going" into the subconscious, they will not explicitly, but persistently prevent him from living in harmony with himself and with the world. Even the very topic of loss will be painfully taboo for him. When a cheerful girl in the company heard that someone, even a stranger, had died, she began to cry. Is the situation of grief not experienced familiar? In addition, the incompleteness of such "sorrows" inevitably affects the mental and physical condition of a person, because a significant part of mental energy is spent on their containment. That is why the families of the SVO fighters really need the help of not just kind people who know how to grieve together, but qualified psychologists. We have developed special guidelines for them and conduct training seminars. To say that the request for this type of assistance from the government and various helping funds is great means to embellish the situation. And this is also alarming, because the displacement of the problem leads only to its aggravation, the consequences can be very severe for the whole society.

- Scientists like to put everything in stages, so it is better to understand, accept and put into practice. Tell me, is it possible to do this with grief too?

Albina Zaripova: I would like to clarify that losses include not only deaths in peacetime and losses at the front, but also divorce, loss of work, failure of a lucrative contract, severe personal diagnoses and disability, perinatal losses, long or final separation from someone who is dear. Even moving to a new place of residence, loss of attractiveness with age and the death of a beloved pet can be experienced as a loss, everything depends on the individual characteristics of a person, the very mental energy that guides everything, gives strength to live. By the way, sometimes grief can be not only silent (social status or cultural traditions do not allow crying out loud), but also postponed. This is when, for example, a person turned out to be the most adequate in the family, and all the hassle of organizing funerals and other issues fell on his shoulders. But when everything settled down and the 40-day commemoration and the ritual were celebrated, he suddenly realized the significance of his loss.

- What unites these states with such a difference in the sources of grief that you just mentioned?

Albina Zaripova: Psychologists divide any experience of grief into several stages, although they are all nonlinear and inconsistent and can overtake each other in different people and under different circumstances and be delayed at some stage. And yet, immediately after receiving the news of the loss, a person experiences shock, confusion (a kind of analgin to dull the pain) and denial (protecting the psyche from traumatic experiences) – “This could not happen to me”, “Everything was fine yesterday”. Tears or numbness, sleep disorders, fear of the dark, often a person is forced to take sedatives. As a rule, this is a temporary stage, but very painful. The situation can get worse when there is no way to say goodbye to the deceased or if a loved one has gone missing. At this point, a person needs the support of family and friends. Funerals and other rituals can help to distract from shock and denial.

- But now all the relatives and friends dispersed, they have been grieving together, and the person is left alone with the loss...

Albina Zaripova: He still has stages of anger ahead of him, when he blames people, the situation, and even God for the loss. It is important to understand here that all offensive words do not relate to others in any way, this is a defensive reaction, a way of expressing and experiencing grief. In the future, there may also be a bargaining stage: “I probably did something wrong myself somewhere, which led to the loss” or “If there was a God, he would not have allowed it.” Then depression can set in: “Why should I live now and how should I live now?”

- How can professional psychologists help here, not everyone will turn to them, but ordinary people who are nearby?

Konstantin Lisetsky: We have finally taught everyone how to brush their teeth properly and not self-medicate Covid, but the situation is worse with mental health. In consolation, I will say that the little man is, in fact, such a perfect creation of nature that he heals everything and settles it himself, if you help him a little. That's why close people should not appeal to his rational thinking, it's useless, but help him in the simplest things. Do not leave, especially in the early days, alone, make sure that there are food and necessary medicines in the house. Try to involve him in simple household or ritual activities: listening or reading prayers, looking at documents, photos. But here we must remember that 170 ethnic groups live in our country, which have different cultural traditions and faith, and millions more atheists. It is important to be ethical here and understand how much this or that action can make the situation easier or worse. It must be understood that grief is not a simple emotion, but a state in which there is a whole range of difficult emotional experiences. This is a serious internal work.

Albina Zaripova: There is no right or wrong response to loss. Prayer helps one, sticking to the computer helps another, someone finds relief, especially young people, in visiting nightclubs among friends or in meditation. And it gets easier for someone on long walks. The main thing is that nothing needs to be imposed on a person. It is more useful to pay attention to the dynamics of his mental state (it becomes easier over time). It is good to help him in solving everyday issues. Depressive state is one of the most difficult and long stages, not to be confused with clinical depression as a disease when you need the help of a psychiatrist.

Here is an example from practice. A family turned to a psychologist about the fact that the mother of the deceased child, despite sufficient time after the event, could not return to a normal state. Her family tried to bring her back to life: “Look at the sun shining, what kind of green grass we have, go out, take a walk,” but their words only made the situation worse. The mother replied over and over again: “Yes, it’s green, the same as it could be on my grave.” They objected to her: “You can't say that, or you'll die yourself,” to which the woman fatally replied: “Well, maybe it will be better that way.” Here we see typical mistakes and misconceptions of loved ones. Persuasion does not work here, but only causes a protest reaction. In a depressed state, a person's mind and body confront each other, which leads to suffering and a feeling of helplessness.

But contacting a psychologist who can help deal with difficult feelings and bodily sensations could help a woman cope with a depressive state.

- I've heard that sometimes they write letters to the dead, and does this also help to get through grief?

Albina Zaripova: There is such a practice. Only these are not mystical messages to the next world, but an appeal to the departed, written in the affirmative and without waiting for an answer, of course. Its main message is bright sadness and gratitude for the time spent together. It is also possible to describe how a person coped with a loss situation. Such a letter is rewritten several times, each time shortened, that is, folding unnecessary information, until it comes to a universal formula – its own mantra, which a person will remember and be able to repeat in a difficult situation. For example, "Thank you for being in my life. Love is above death.” It should be clarified that such a letter can be written only at the stage of accepting grief, and not in shock or depression, when it only increases the bitterness of loss and acute emotions on paper.

Key question

 - When it becomes clear that if a person has not forgotten (this is impossible), then he has experienced a loss, has included this experience in resources for later life?

Konstantin Lisetsky: In case of loss of a child, even if he died before he was born or in the first days of life, a state of “bright sadness” may never occur. In most other situations, a person eventually comes to terms with the loss, gets used to living in a world where there is no deceased. During the time of grieving, he may lose part of his former environment, but it happens that a new one arises, it is possible to restore lost business ties, change himself in some ways, overestimate a lot. Over time, normal sleep and appetite return, a person adjusts his life. All this happens gradually and individually, someone needs a year, someone needs five. With the help of a psychologist, the process is more orderly and safe. A bereaved person is freed from reflex reactions and moves from “no” to “was”. The topic of loss ceases to be taboo for him. In their soul, they remain grateful to the departed for all that they had in common, and a warm lump of bright sadness under their heart.

Source: rg.ru