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  • Subject Name : Nursing

Addressing Grief in Young Adults

As a society, people take it upon them to fix the problems that they can see. But, how to fix something which cannot be seen but is felt? Grief is a very sensitive subject. There is no precise way in which one can define grief as different individuals have different associations with grief. Fiorini & Mullen (2016), have described grief as a process that is a cause of pain and agony in an individual's life and may occur either as a result of a consequence which is beyond an individual's control or an abrupt change in someone's routine. Loss is universally inevitable but to what extent it impacts and affects an individual's life is unique in each case. Just as different people have different reasons to be happy, similarly, grief could have a different meaning for each person. For some, it may be the physical loss of a loved one (spouse, child or family member), or loss of a materialistic pleasure (such as losing a house, a car, a watch), a traumatic memory (accidents or assaults) or loss of relationship (break up, separation or divorce). Even memories that are a cause of happiness can also trigger painful thoughts in times of grief (Fiorini & Mullen, 2016). As ironical as it may sound, though a of people claim to understand and empathise with someone who is grieving, yet many have still not been able to accept grief as part of life and not some health condition. The paper seeks to analyse different forms of grief (popular and disenfranchised), their impact over young adults and ways in which one can attempt to cope with such difficult situations in life.

As formally established, grief is inevitable and has myriad meanings for different individuals. According to a renowned psychologist, Julia Samuels, grief is extremely personal and unique. There is no one way to grieve and everyone has to find their way to cope. The process of grieving is a paradox that people have to find a way to live with the reality of the loss and pain is the agent of change. Pain is what forces people to adjust to a reality that they don't want. Often the very source of happiness is the sources of pain as well. Romantic relationships are an inevitable part of the lives of teenagers and young adults. According to McKiernan, Ryan, McMahon, Bradley, & Butler, (2018), romantic relationships for the basis in which a young adult’s understanding of intimacy, affiliation, sexuality, identity and autonomy take place. Research shows that the duration of romantic relationships is smallest, ranging from a few months to a year, in adolescents and almost all individuals under the age bracket of 20-25 years have gone through breakups in their relationships (McKiernan, Ryan, McMahon, Bradley, & Butler, 2018). Although, breakups are a normal part of adult life yet the extent of distress that they end up causing in certain cases is a factor of significant analysis. For research, McKiernan, Ryan, McMahon, Bradley, & Butler (2018), conducted an exhaustive investigation, analysis thoughts and reactions from 31 participants on an approved internet forum that was specifically created to conduct this research over a year. The results of the research brought forth several coping mechanisms of both positive and negative nature. This availability of emotional support, self-expression, distraction, which were positive in nature and indulgence in substance use or development in eating disorders were negative in nature.

Another direction in which the paper focusses its discussion is on youth who have been a part of the foster care system. Research by Mitchell (2017), was conducted on ways in which youth in foster care cope with loss which was not about death. Here an important and yet significantly overlooked form of grief that has been discussed is disenfranchised grief. Grief, a natural response to loss, is considered disenfranchised when it is not acknowledged or attended to by society (Mitchell, 2017). Unlike bereaved children who grieve the death of their parents, children in foster care grieve non-death losses of parents, siblings, and other loved ones in the form of ambiguous loss of family and friends, the loss of community, the loss of identity and the loss of normalcy. The discussion brings forth the fact that grieving needs of youth from foster care are often overlooked and not given enough importance. This is a critical factor that has seen to affect the lives and thought process of many individuals and their manner of living.

People often agree to a popular belief that the youth of today is the future of tomorrow. Therefore, society must invest in the emotional and psychological needs of its youth. It is one thing to have an educated person, it is different to have a mentally strong individual. The subject of grief holds a huge relevance, especially amongst young adults who are pretty much in their formative years of life and the lessons and strength that they will develop in these years, will form the basis of how they lead their life.

A research conducted on the level of grief and depression amongst young adults indicated that 81.3% of adults (18-25 years) have faced the loss of a loved one. The study indicated that 3% denote grief and difficulty arising out of academic areas and 34 per cent of the surveyed individuals were marked with severe depression arising out of grief due to various reasons (Mash, Fullerton, Shear, & Ursano, 2014). These statistics make it reasonably hard to ignore the impact of grief on various individuals, regardless of its type.

During discussions about the most common grief that usually engulfs the young adults and our primary focus of discussion, it is found that breakups have a significant impact on an individual’s life. According to McKiernan, Ryan, McMahon, Bradley, & Butler (2018), the research brought out common reasons a person goes through relationship breakups like time limitation, boredom, disinterest, absence of love, physical violence, cheating, poor communication, peer pressure, family disapproval, long-distance relationships, lack of physical intimacy, lack of interest amongst many others.

A significant consequence of relationship breakups amongst young adults is that it can impair intellectual functioning, especially when performing complex tasks involving logic and reasoning. It temporarily lowers the Intelligent-Quotient of the people involved. According to (Queensland Health, 2017), grief arising out of relationship breakups encompasses the hallmark of traditional grief – insomnia, intrusive thoughts, immune system dysfunction. Studies have shown that 40 per cent of people show clinically measured depression (Winch, (2018). 

The other aspect of the paper, which focusses on the grieving caused to youth in foster care brings forth serious considerations that the society and the foster care authorities end up overlooking. The research by Mitchell (2017) highlighted that grieves of foster care children are not given enough attention which has seen to affect their personalities in a hard-hitting way. The research indicated that the enfranchisement of the grief caused to such individuals could make the difference in how their attitudes shape-up. As a consequence of this many such individuals end up developing trust issues with other people or their future companions and family members and get transformed into personalities that are rather reluctant and cold towards the external environment.

Grief in its both forms, franchised or enfranchised, is observed to have a huge impact over an individual's psychology and emotional stability. For many, the above reasons for breakup often lead to severe depression that affects their normative lives. The grief of losing a relationship during a young age is often hard to absorb and that is where the role of coping mechanism comes into play. Although, it is established that a grieving individual takes their own time which cannot be precise and definitive and one way of coping cannot be applied to all, however, leaving grief unaddressed can have serious and critical consequences.

In terms of coping with grief, most individuals identified the role of family support playing an instrumental role in recovering from the setback. Distracting oneself into disconnected activities also help in dealing with grief resulting from the breakup. For example, many people go for holiday trips or adventure trips to take their mind off the issue for a while almost like rebooting their minds in an attempt to get back to life. Individuals have also been found to focus more on self-expression that is going for a physical transformation, makeover, lifestyle changes that can potentially provide them with the source of much-needed confidence and strength to move on and move ahead. On the flip side, the negative forms of recovering from grief show some individuals resorting to substance abuse, isolating themselves from others, falling for identity crisis or developing alter-ego personalities in-spite realising the detrimental effect of such decisions.

At some point in their life, a lot of individuals have had their hearts broken. Grief arising out of a broken relationship can be shattering to many. As much as people would not want to think about their broken relationships, they often find themselves consumed by the thoughts of what-ifs and what-then for a while. This leads to introspect why many of them are not able to recover from heartbreaks?

The biggest weapon of countering grief is the ability and strength of letting go. This applies more profoundly to this subject because when people go through breakups, often letting go of the relationship even after it is over, is the hardest. Therefore, it is innately required to be strong enough to let go of the relationship and not keep seeking a logical explanation to find closure. There is a good chance one might not find a logical explanation of why the relationship ended. To cope with grief, one needs to find areas that provide them with strength.

The conclusion drawn here is that there are two types of grief that essentially need to be addressed amongst young adults. Grief arising out of breakups in relationships is a normative process that almost every individual goes through. Yet the consequences in terms of stress and anxiety arising out of heart break and other psychological impact may vary from one individual to another. The disenfranchisement grief that is most commonly found amongst youth from foster care systems, is a grief that needs far more serious consideration and attention from our society than it normally gets. If not well addressed, the disenfranchisement grief may take form of rather recluse and hard personality shapes in the individuals.

Coping with the above kind of griefs involves a lot of contribution on part of an individual’s family, friends and close associates who can also be identified as support systems. Additionally, one can also look for constructive ways of coping with these griefs such distracting in other activities or focussing on self confidence and sense of expression. However, the most significant element that one should rely on is time. part in helping someone recovering from their distress. Yet, the most important element is time. Time eventually heals the biggest of wounds. There is a reason, why wise people have left for the people to contemplate this beautiful pearl of wisdom. Looking for instant solutions in times of grief will only bring about instant but temporary resolves. One needs to find a lasting solution to cope with their pain points.

References for Complicated Grief and Depression in Young Adults

Boelen, P. A., & Smid, G. E. (2017). Disturbed grief: prolonged grief disorder and persistent complex bereavement disorder. BMJ, 2–9. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j2016

Doka, K. J. (2017). Grief is a journey : finding your path through loss. Atria Books.

Fiorini, J., & Mullen, J. (2016). Understanding Grief and Loss in Children. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/vistas/understanding-grief-and-loss-in-children.pdf?sfvrsn=10

Mash, H. B. H., Fullerton, C. S., Shear, M. K., & Ursano, R. J. (2014). Complicated Grief and Depression in Young Adults. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 202(7), 539–543. https://doi.org/10.1097/nmd.0000000000000155

McKiernan, A., Ryan, P., McMahon, E., Bradley, S., & Butler, E. (2018). Understanding Young People’s Relationship Breakups Using the Dual Processing Model of Coping and Bereavement. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 23(3), 192–210. https://doi.org/10.1080/15325024.2018.1426979

Mitchell, M. B. (2017). “No One Acknowledged My Loss and Hurt”: Non-death Loss, Grief, and Trauma in Foster Care. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 35(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-017-0502-8

Queensland Health. (2017). The science behind a broken heart. Retrieved from Qld.gov.au website: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/science-behind-a-broken-heart

Valois, D. D., Novoa, D. C., & Davis, C. G. (2016). Since You’ve Been Gone: Coping with a Relationship Breakup. Journal of Interpersonal Relations, Intergroup Relations and Identity, 9, 2–9.

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