Grief & Loss
Grief is universal. At some point in everyone’s life, they will experience this natural response to losing someone or something important in their life. It may be from the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or any other change that alters life as you know it. Grief is also very personal. You may feel a variety of emotions, and the experience can be very intense. It’s not very neat or linear. There is no “normal” time period for someone to grieve.
Human beings are naturally resilient, most of us will endure loss and then continue on with our own lives. But some people may struggle with grief for longer periods of time and feel unable to carry out daily activities. Individuals with severe grief who are struggling to heal could benefit from the help of a grief counsellor
What are “normal” emotions to feel?
Everyone grieves differently, your feelings may happen in phases as you come to terms with your loss. You can’t control the process, but it’s helpful to know the reasons behind your feelings. Here are some possible emotional experiences you may or may not encounter on your path to healing.
- Denial: A temporary defence mechanism against reality. Denying it gives you time to more gradually absorb the news and begin to process it. It is normal to feel shocked or numb.
- Anger: You may feel frustrated or helpless as the reality of the loss starts to set in. These feelings could later turn into anger. This anger is protective, hiding many of the emotions and pain that you carry. It may be directed towards self, others ,or even towards the individual who died.
- Bargaining: You may feel vulnerable and helpless. In those moments of intense emotions, it’s not uncommon to look for ways to regain control or to want to feel like you can affect the outcome of an event. It helps you postpone the sadness, confusion, or hurt. People often ask questions like Questions “if only.. and “what if”. You may dwell on what you could’ve done to prevent the loss. For those of faith, you may also try to strike a deal with a higher power.
- Depression: This is the quiet part of grief. Sadness may creep in as the depth of the loss is realized. You may feel overwhelmed, regretful, and lonely. If you feel stuck in this part of grief, seeking supports may be very helpful to minimize further depression symptoms.
- Acceptance: Occurs when you are able understand how your life has been altered and accept it. You can experience the grief while starting to move forward with your life.
How long should grief last?
There’s no “normal” amount of time to grieve. Your grieving process depends on a number of things, like the type of loss, nature of the relationship, beliefs, and support network . When individuals are able to experience their emotions and care for themselves in a healthy way, the sadness should ease with time. Here are some ways that people process grief.
- Talk about the death of your loved one with people you trust and are close with. This may help you understand what happened and remember the person. Avoidance leads to isolation and will disrupt the grieving process.
- Accept your feelings. Emotions may seem intense, overwhelming , and volatile. All of these feelings are normal and it’s important to recognize what the feelings are, and how they are trying to help you care for yourself in an effective way.
- Take care of yourself and your family. The grieving process can take a toll on one’s body. Eating healthy, exercising, and proper sleep can help your physical and emotional health. The use of alcohol and substances may numb you temporarily but may make things woresin the long run.
- Reach out and help others dealing with the loss. Connecting to loved ones helps everyone cope. Reminiscing, sharing stories, hugs can make a big difference to your emotional process. Helping others has the added benefit of making you feel better as well.
- Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved ones. Having rituals, activities, and/or events that honor the deceased allows you to reconnect. How do you maintain a relationship with the person that is gone?
Feeling stuck in the grief?
In some cases, the pain of grief doesn’t ease. You may not be able to accept the loss. Some signs of complicated grief include
- Trouble going to work and completing daily routines.
- Feelings of depression
- Unable to do basic self care- insomnia, eating healthy, hygiene
- Social withdrawal
- Thoughts that life isn’t worth living, or of harming yourself
- Any inability to stop blaming yourself
- Patterns of numbing yourself with food, alcohol, drugs, gambling etc
Grief therapists are trained to help people better handle the fear, guilt or anxiety that can be associated with the death of a loved one. Grief counselling can help you explore your emotions, teach you coping skills, and build resilience. If you decide you need help coping with the intense feelings and changes, contact me for support. Healing is possible through understanding your emotions, building connection, and caring for yourself.