Magpies, dolphins, sea lions, geese, elephants, squirrels and, of course, dogs (to name only a few) each express some level of discomfort over the loss of an offspring, a mate or a companion. Whether that response is equal to the expression of human grief is left to conjecture. There does seem to be some resemblance.
It is unclear what role grief plays in our human adaptive response to loss. We do know that grief, at some point in our evolutionary history, served to strengthen social and family bonds. Death may disrupt our attachment with others, thereby weakening the very survival of the group. Grief and its accompanying empathetic response may make reconciling differences between surviving group members more possible.
Grief does appear to have offered some adaptive value to how we’ve evolved and continue to evolve as a species. Like many of our modern-day emotive potentials, however, grief may no longer serve the same purpose for which Nature had intended it, leaving us to grieve without a rational appreciation for its meaning or value.
Death, with its ambiguities and subjective parameters is, much like grief, beyond our human understanding. As much as any group, troop, cult or individual would like to claim a clear understanding of death, the fact is we have nothing more than subjective opinion to go on – a view that relies mainly on Faith and Hope to sustain it. Death and grief are, and will likely remain, the principal mystery of human life.
Human misery appears to rely on Hope to endure it. Moreover, Hope plays an integral role in sustaining our physical and psychological health during times of hardship, helping to reduce or eliminate the body’s bio-psychosocial response to stress. The expression of Hope may be necessary to sustain human life.
Without Hope, humans may perish at the first sign of misfortune.
Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D. (March 26, 1905 – September 2, 1997), an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor whose book Man’s Search for Meaning [http://www.amazon.com/Mans-Search-Meaning-Viktor-Frankl/dp/0671023373] endorsed the value of Hope in all forms of human existence, especially the most sordid ones. Hope holds the promise of relief from anguish, physical pain, oppression and uncertainty and can serve to moderate the physical and psychological drain that is often experienced during hardship.
Without Hope, humans are destined to Despair. Chronic despair (stress) can lead to cardiovascular disorders, cancer, pernicious anemia, ulcerative colitis, leukemia, lymphoma, lupus, pneumonia, diabetes, influenza, glaucoma, high blood pressure, chronic itching, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic depression, alcoholism, drug dependency and malnutrition. The expression of Hope mitigates our response to despair by providing us with imaginative solutions, fostering the prospect for manageable outcomes.
Humans approach the death of a loved one as they would any misfortune of life – by looking toward Hope to restore pshysical and psychological balance. Not surprisingly, humans have come to use dogma, mental images, self-talk, ritual, ceremony and custom to foster a Hopeful frame of mind that helps endure the hopelessness the death of a loved one might bring. Although these expressions of Hope are satisfying for some, death is also a time for uncertainty, confusion, chaos, mystery and disorder. Under those circumstances, our stress response is activated in order to face it.
We may rightly conclude that grief is mainly a part of the human stress response. Our brain is stimulated to take action against misfortune; but, since we cannot undo the death of a loved one, there is no rational action we can take.
In times of stress, the fight-flight-or-freeze (the 3F) response is induced. The 3F has deep evolutionary roots in our basic human structure. Our physical brain responds to stress by increasing the production of CRH, a hormone that produces symptoms of anxiety. Emergency-mobilizing chemicals are released. As our stress increases, the chemical levels increase. Our central nervous system becomes highly stimulated, along with our breathing and our biological rhythms our normal sleeping and eating habits. Our digestion, metabolism, circulation and respiration change and our ability to concentrate and pay attention decreases.
The absence of Hope in times of stress may be overwhelming for some individuals, resulting in a chronic state of distress and despair. Chronic despair is often described as a state of being grief-stricken, heart-sick, wretched, inconsolable, woebegone, heavy-hearted and bereft of hope.
In order to better meet the psychological and physical demands of despair, we might view death and grief as instruments of enlightenment.
Ultimately, death may serve the magnificent purpose of putting life in perspective for the living.
Death may prompt us to enjoy ourselves more; take more risks; ask more questions; defend the defenseless, and to savor every bite. Death may prompt us to refocus and tend more conscientiously to our living relationships. Death may encourage us to learn to pardon and forgive others for their errors in judgment and imperfections. Death may be a time for building new relationships and strengthening existing ones.
It is likely that there will be a period of sadness and loss at the death of a loved one; give them that time willingly. If your loved one achieved the love and affection of others, s/he contributed in some consequential and meaningful way and may well deserve your focused attention. The rightful use of Hope as a means for adapting to death, however, might be found in how well you reestablish your connection with others and how successful you are, in your own life, at leaving a legacy Hope for the living.
- Sleepless (jennetcetera.wordpress.com)
- Grief or self-pity? (karunamettacat.wordpress.com)
- When it is okay to count your blessings. (indianhomemaker.wordpress.com)
- Welcome to my Blog (griefsupportnh.wordpress.com)
- Death of a Loved One Raises Heart Attack Risk, Study Shows (livescience.com)
- Hello Grief? Meet Depression. Happy Monday. (avoidingkim.wordpress.com)
- More on Grief and Loss (nursingtrends.wordpress.com)
- Dealing With Grief (womenofspiritandlight.wordpress.com)
- Yoga and stress (beatrizreciopalomero.wordpress.com)
- Grief and Loss in our Daily Lives (williamw60640.wordpress.com)
- Gloria’s Grief (grannyscolorful.wordpress.com)
- Grief compounds grief (graybeardtrail.wordpress.com)
- GRIEF Chapter 4 (gracieackerman.wordpress.com)
- Grief without Tears (scientificamerican.com)
- Advent Reflection – Grief and Hope (communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com)
- The Evolution of Grief, Both Biological and Cultural, in the 21st Century (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Poetic Grief, Revisited (onetrackmuse.com)
- Poetry: Grief Burst (navigatingcyberloss.wordpress.com)
- Griefing (notsoperfectpw.wordpress.com)
- The Healthland Podcast: Grief and Heartbreak, Breastfeeding, and Memory (healthland.time.com)
- Grief (nookinthewoods.wordpress.com)
- How Grief Can Break Your Heart (healthland.time.com)
- information about griefing. (zacksserver.wordpress.com)
- PG Poetry | PLANET GRIEF (milenanik3.wordpress.com)
- Is Love Worth the Price? (maxiscomments.com)
- Attachment, Grief, and Complicated Grief (psychologytoday.com)
- 2 Things to Do When You’re Exhausted from Grief – Luke 22:45-46 (dianneguthmuller.com)
- The Seven Stages of Grief from http://www.recover-from-grief.com/7-stages-of-grief.html (shahanascorner.wordpress.com)
- Active Grieving Helps Healing (psychologytoday.com)
- Grief (reidmillerwrites.net)
- Common Reactions to Grief: Behavior (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- He is grieving too (elisdream.wordpress.com)
- Good Grief vs. Bad Depression (reason.com)
- Will Depression Include Normal Grieving Too? (psychcentral.com)
- Grief will become just another form of depression: another billable disorder for the DSM5 (kenyatta2009.wordpress.com)