Four Stage Models of Grief
According to Hutchison (2003), those individuals above the age of 85 years are among the age bracket within the aging population which grows at a very high rate. This age group is prone to unlimited uncertainties which equally put them at a higher risk of living a shorter life upon attaining that age. Additionally, it is also found that the number of women who survive up to this age is slightly greater than the number of men. Consequently, late adulthood is composed mainly of women than men in the ratio of 5 to 2 when a random sample statistic is taken (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics 2009). Further statistics reveal that those individuals who are quite weak in physical strength tend to die earlier.
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Nevertheless, those who live until very late adulthood are often strong in spite of the fact that they are not spared at all from chronic conditions which are often common at old age. This may lead to some of them being disabled owing to chronic attacks like diabetes and heart related failures.
The advance towards late adulthood does not separate these individuals from the psychological need of having acquaintances around them. They will frequently need people to connect with in their day to day lives. The desire and need to belong within a group of people is a psychological need which is part and parcel of late adulthood. Hutchison (2003) further observes that those individuals within the late adulthood bracket are not easily frustrated by the fact that death is a reality. They are found to be more composed and less worried compared to other junior age groups. The four stage models of grief discussed here are not exhaustive owing to the fact that researchers have continued to investigate the many faces grief can take with specific reference to late adulthood. On the same note, other parallel theories and ideologies have also been put forward in an attempt to expound on the models or stages of grief.
The Models of Grief
Grief models can also be referred to as grief cycles and they take different models depending on the age group. A crucial stage model of grief begins with turning a blind eye to reality. Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, those individuals in very late adulthood do not bother so much with gross eventualities like death because they know clearly well that their ages are long due and instances like death is a reality they have learnt to leave with (Wright & Hgan 2008).
As a result, the first stage of grief notably denial, is not a big bother to adults in late age beyond the age of 85 years. They sail very smoothly to the reality of death and bereavement. However, the denial part may also be influenced by the cultural aspect which has been set up by the society. For instance, the United States of America is a multicultural base hosting a variety of cultures from different inhabitants from across the world (Lindemann 2009).
The population is ever on the rise calling for the need of all healthcare experts to mount efforts in addressing the growing need of professionals who are competent and skilful enough to bridge cultural and grief needs during very late age. Additionally, the healthcare experts have a challenging role of giving hope and restoring the devastated state of the mind due to grief (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics 2009).
Very late age is particularly of great interest. Educators who are well versed with the knowledge of relating culture and grief or bereavement towards helping those in very late adulthood are needed. One of the reasons why these individuals may find themselves leaving in denial may be due adverse events like the death of a close one. The very adult people may not want to accept the mistakes they have made in life; they may also not want to adjust to the death of a spouse or loved one, the second stage in the cycle is anger; in this case the elderly person may not feel satisfied by the way he or she has led his or her life, such a person may also get angry due to the death of a loved one. This is a case where the elderly person may get emotional, a situation that may aggravate when past painful things are recollected during the grief period.
The third stage of the cycle is depression where the elderly person becomes low in terms of moods and tends to be the state of aversion of activities, have persistent anxiety and feeling of emptiness. In this case, the elderly tend to be lost in the world of reflections and uncertainties.
The other stage of grief cycle is acceptance where the adult agree to have experienced the situation and deal with it without regret. An adults past experiences may be full of negativities but at this stage, he or she accepts such situations as social facts of his or her life and tries to cope with it.
There are numerous ways through which adults may cope with grief and bereavements. It is important to note that these coping mechanisms vary from one adult to the other and also depending with the type of a social environment one finds himself or herself in.
Being reached out to is one of the ways through which the very old people can manage to deal with such situations even though many individuals are always hesitant to reach out to people who are a grieved; instead, such people normally wait until such aggrieved individuals asks for help from them. Waiting for the aggrieved aged person to ask for assistance may not help them since they are guided by life experiences and may not just share their grievances despite the fact that they be undergoing much already (Rothaupt & Becker 2007).
The other model is that of anger. It basically results from an emotion which has been disappointed (MacDonald, Martin & Margrett 2008). Those individuals at very late adulthood may resort to anger especially when they realize that their needs are not met accordingly.
Alternatively, grief and bereavement has also been found to be a common source of anger among these individuals. The loss of a loved one may not only lead to grief but also anger which if not well controlled, can lead to further disappointment.
The elderly are full of life experiences and many of them would like to share especially with young people close to them. Sharing of their past is one way through which they cope with grief and bereavements. In this case, they need those who can be present around them and just listen to them as they recollect and evaluate their past. These coping mechanisms may be used with grandchildren and young people. Grief can be used to refer to emotions and process that individuals experience when an important relationship is significantly interrupted either though death or any other means that will terminate an important or intimate relationship.
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Bereavement is a term that has been used by different individuals. Some populace have regard bereavement as a secondary type of grief that comes about when a loved one passes on while others have also argued that it is a word used to refer to the interlude when grief is felt and losses that are occurring.
Grief begins when something or someone who matters a lot to an individual is lost and the possibility of experience with such is unlikely. It is agreeable that people do not grief for the loss of all relations, but only those have formed important components of the grieving person’s life. Otherwise, here we examine grief and bereavement in the very late adulthood (Worden, 2009). Grief is multi-faced has different effects on different people or individuals
Grief and bereavement can sometimes lead to stress and sometimes depression and may in other cases lead to early death of an adult. Some adults cope with this situation by crying it out (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics 2009). This happens especially with women. Men are never as emotional and women are and this is the reason most of them do not like showing their grievances but keep to themselves.
Women like taking about their grievances and even cry when overcome with emotions. This makes them avoid major effects of depression and stress. By reason of this, they are able to outlive men who may s very old s they are. It is important to note that this could be the reason more women than men survive to very adulthood. This implies that women are able to cope with grief more than men who would rather keep their problems only known to themselves and in any case, just a very few people. This makes them easily suffer from depression and stress related complications.
In cases of death, communicating with surviving relatives or friends is another ways through which adults can cope with grief (Wright & Hgan, 2008).
In fact, it is important to them when relatives pay those frequent visits rather than stay alone. Very old people are relieved when they are visited by friends and relatives and in some cases they are not likely to feel relieved from the pains of due to the loss of their loved ones
After passing through the anger model, an individual at very late adulthood may also face the bargaining stage. This entails a case whereby a person attempts to seek another chance by fighting for a better deal. For instance, if it were only possible for God to extend that lease of life as death knocks the door. A person will plead with God for an additional life which may not be possible.
A case example of such a bargain is in the event death approaches and one has to die. Since this kind of plea is not practical and is only served as a wish, an individual at that edge may be psychologically depressed. Such kind of depression are the ones responsible for the onset of chronic conditions which are common with adults at very late age.
Depression usually come s before the elderly person begins to grieve over something. It paves the way before the real grief to takes over an individual. As they develop, babies break away from dependence on the caregivers and start forming external support connections.
The theory highlights that when people move closer to old age, they lose the ability to take care of themselves and instead they remain to be fended for like children. A research done by gerontologists prove that growing into an aged individual is not a cheerful moment in which people enjoy what they used to while still young and growing. It is this fact that makes some memories be sorrowful resulting into feelings of grief and bereavement.
Cumming and Henry have given a description of disengagement as an unavoidable mutual withdrawal which is most likely to result into reduced interaction between the aged and the significant others who belong to the same social system. Such a person becomes part of the social order and must comply will the demands of the culture and is expected to carry out the social and cultural needs of the society to which he or she belong. The disengagement may be against one’s wish but due to cultural and societal demands, he or she has no other alternative. This forced disengagement can possibly lead to feelings of grief.
The last stage model of grief is acceptance. It is important to note that this stage just like the previous ones may vary from one elderly person to the other. It is equally attached to the emotion of the concerned persons since the ability to give fair judgment that one is accepted is merely a function of the emotions and attitudes.
A good example of the acceptance scenario is when people die. They can decide to get into the situation of acceptance as the last necessary thing to do. Acceptance usually accompanies very late adulthood when individuals succumb to the prevailing situation because any attempt to resist may prove to be futile. Several researches have shown that grief and bereavement affect individuals in different ways and that people have different coping strategies for the situations. It has also been shown that grief manifest differently in different people (Dombeck 2005). It is argued that infants are not able to understand death but are able to sense grief however as they grow into adulthood, through life’s stages, they come to understand and experience grief and be able to react to such a condition.
In elderly people, grief shows itself in different and almost unique ways than in middle aged individuals. At their stage in life, it has been argued, they do not have their focus in the future, but instead spend most of their time reviewing their past. It is stated that with age, the number of deaths in one’s life increases and facing these realities in life within a short period of time.
In many, if not most, cases the elderly may already be dealing with the issues of the loss of their careers, and change in their home environment. Sometimes the elderly may feel so overwhelmed with lots of negative issues that they may not be able to grieve.
- Dombeck, M. (2005). Grief & Bereavement Issues.
- Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics (2009). Data sources on Older Americans 2009, Federal Interagency forum on Aging Related statistics.
- Hutchison D.E (2003). Dimensions of human behavior: The changing life course. London: Sage Publications.
- Lindemann E.( 2009). Symptomatology and management of grief. Am J Psychiatry Sesquicentennial Supplement. 151(6).
- MacDonald M, Martin P and Margrett J (2008). Aging and mental health. ScolarOne Manuscript Central: 1-34.
- Rothaupt W.J and Becker K ( 2007). The Family Journal 15(6).
- Wright M.P and Hgan S.N (2008).Grief Theories and Models, Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing, 10 (6).