How to Deal With Grief
It is likely that most of us, at some point, have experienced feelings of grief. One of the most painful realities of life is that with a strong bond and love comes that powerful wave of loss when they pass away. The passing of a parent, friend, partner, and pet can cause great anguish and sadness that can extend for months or years into depression. Grief may be most equated to loss through death, we can also feel grief after a divorce or a lost job.
Despite that awful sense of aloneness and endlessness, there are many resources available to support people in times of grief. We cover some of these resources here, in hope that it will offer some respite in your challenging time.
Is bereavement the same as grief?
Grief is a complex response to loss. It is not merely an emotional experience but can impact on behaviour, our physical wellbeing, our social skills, and our spirituality. It is a profound feeling that can change us as people. Bereavement tends to refer to a period when we are experience the acute grief. Arguably most challenging is the time when your bereavement period is perceived to be over, but the power of the grief continues.
How does grief manifest?
Grief is different for every individual. While there are common reactions to loss, you make experience some or none of the follow symptoms.
The most recognisable will be your emotional reaction. You may struggle to feels anything at all or you may cry constantly. You may feel more anger and rage and find yourself distancing yourself. You could become more anxious and struggle to feel any positive emotions. It is possible that the loss is all that you can focus on.
Our emotional and physical states are interwoven. Therefore, with great upset often comes an upset gut. You will likely also feel tired and suffer headaches. Your muscles will be sore from holding yourself so tightly – and some people even suffer with pains in the chest.
For a time, all these reactions to grief are to be expected. However, prolonged suffering, especially with the physical symptoms, are best explored with a doctor.
The grieving processes
No one grieves in the same way. However, there is a five-stage model that has been seen as most closely representing the journey we might take. First, we will work with denial, hoping or believing there has been a mistake. Second, it is common to feel angry and look for someone to blame, followed by a period of bargaining – where you believe you can make a deal with fate. There will then be a depression, which usually lasts the longest of all stages, where you feel the despair of the loss. Finally, with time, comes acceptance, as the loss is understood and a way of moving forward can be shaped.
When is grief more than grief?
There is prolonged grief disorder and complicated grief disorder. Prolonged grief is severe and impairs the individual for longer than six months. This disorder is more common than you would imagine, though it effects women more than men. Complicated grief disorder is similar to prolonged grief but rather than progress through the stages of grief, the individual is trapped in the perpetual state of first hearing the news and the trauma this caused.
How to cope with your grief
We have spent much time talking about what grief is to reassure you that you are not alone in the emotions you feel. Sometimes, feeling that your response is normal and other people share it is enough to guide you through the difficult time.
Yet, it is more important to recognise that there is no right or wrong way to deal with loss. You may need some help to walk your way through your grief.
First, you can speak to a counsellor. Grief counsellors are trained to help you with your thoughts and feelings and allow you the space to share these freely. If a counsellor feels too intense, there are also support groups that gather to help those with grief. It might be enough to spend time with friends and family and taking the time to share memories of the person that has died.
There are medications you can take that will help you through the depressive period. Your doctor will be able to advise here. You should also take extra steps to engage in self-care. Take a bath, go out for a walk, eat healthily. While you may not feel it worth bothering after your loss, you will give your body and mind chance to recover quicker if you do practice self-care.
Finally, and most important to hear, grief takes time to pass. You cannot decide it must go away quickly and no one should tell you to get over it. Grief takes the time it takes, and patience is essential. Your GP will also have resources to help support you through if you think it is too much for you to handle alone.
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