32 year old Kathryn “Kate” Steinle was in the prime of her career, she was loved by coworkers, family and friends, and was shot and killed at Pier 14 in San Francisco while walking with her father.

The incident that took her life at Pier 14 in San Francisco on July 1 has been widely circulated in the media and has stirred up feelings of grief for those who have lost someone suddenly.  Kate’s family grief is even more challenging as parents expect to die before their children.  Kate’s family is also supporting a law “Kate’s Law” for illegal immigrants that commit felonies and are deported, but return to the United States.  Juan

Grief is an emotional suffering felt when we lose someone who we love. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief can be. Ordinary grief is not an illness but a completely natural response to loss. People who are grieving the loss of a loved one usually have an adaptive personality which often makes them able to overcome the grief symptoms without professional help. However, if the grief symptoms continue and it is not treated, the grieving person is not immune to developing emotional and mental illness such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

There are 5 specific stages of grief that people will experience when mourning a deceased loved one. Some people do not experience the stages in the order listed below:

  1. DenialIt is not happening. Due to the shock and overwhelming emotions the person will likely try to rationalize the situation and deny the death of the loved one. This is a temporary response and it is a self-protection from the painful reality.
  2. Anger I am not ready yet to face it. Along with denial, people will most likely experience anger as a way to deflect the vulnerability and to express the pain that the loss is causing them. In this stage, the anger can be expressed towards objects, people, and friends. In some cases, the anger will be expressed at the deceased loved one. Feelings of resentment, abandonment and guilt can be felt by the one who is suffering the grief.
  3. Bargain What if? In a search to gain back the control of the situation and due to feelings of vulnerability and hopelessness caused by the painful reality, people in this stage will begin a mentally overwhelming game of what ifs? Trying to understand and to find solutions with what went wrong.
  4. DepressionDeep sadness. Depression can be associated with mourning. In this stage people can face different types of depression. Some people will go through the reactional type that is a private but also is a painful way to prepare for the separation from the deceased loved one.
  5. Acceptance Marked by calm and serenity. People in this stage of grief have overcome the feelings of denial and anger, but it is not a period of happiness but of acceptance of the situation. Acceptance causes people to remember the deceased loved one with peace. People in this stage usually reflect about the shared experiences that they had as a gift left to them by the deceased loved one.

Coping with emotional pain caused by grief is not an easy experience and it is felt in different ways by each person.

Tips that can help during the grieving process:

  1. Share your feelings with friends or people you trust
  2. Develop a new routine
  3. Build a new meaning in life (new project in life)
  4. Adapt a new sense of identity
  5. Physical activities (meditation, yoga)
  6. Good nutrition
  7. Nourish yourself
  8. Rest (after grief your body is exhausted and it deserves peaceful time)

Mental help professionals can help people who are immersed in the grieving process to recognize their own strengths and to develop health coping mechanisms that permits them gradually to overcome the grief and to find a better balance in life.

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AUTHOR: Anna Vita, M.S. – Anna O. Vita, M.S. has a Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and is an accomplished multi-cultural Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern working with couples, teens, young adults and women empowerment issues in Orlando and East Orlando Florida!  Anna Vita can be reached at (407) 248-0030.