When we lose someone or something we love or care deeply about it is very painful and so when we suffer a loss we often begin a complex journey of thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours that feel like they may never end. Grief is a natural response to loss and is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone you love is taken away. Grief is most often associated with the death of a loved one, but any loss can cause grief. The more significant a loss is to you the more intensely you may feel your grief.
Grieving is also a very personal experience and how each of us grieves will depend on our personalities, our life experiences, our coping styles, our beliefs and the nature of our loss.
The grieving process also takes time, though there are no rules to how short or how long each of us will need in order to heal and move on. Many of us go through a number of common symptoms, though not everyone will go through these and almost certainly not in the same order. It is helpful to remember that in the early stages of grief anything that you experience is normal including feeling like you are going mad or that you will wake up from this bad dream.
Common symptoms of grief include:-
Shock and disbelief – Immediately after a loss you may feel numb and unable to comprehend what has happened. You may find it hard to accept or even deny it to yourself. You may get ready to answer a ringing phone to a loved one, despite knowing that he or she has gone.
Guilt – You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do.
You may also feel guilty about your feelings, for example, if you feel relief after caring for someone for a long time, that you are now free from this commitment, or relief that you no longer have to face a person that may have abused you.
Sadness – Sadness is one of the most commonly experienced symptoms of grief. Sadness itself can encompass feelings of emptiness, loneliness, yearning and despair. You may find yourself crying a lot or feeling emotionally unstable.
Anger – Many people are left feeling angry in their grief. You may direct this anger at yourself, at others or at the person that you have lost, at the authorities or at the world in general as you may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that has happened. This response is normal, but can be unhelpful if you dwell upon blame instead of on your own healing.
Fear – The death of a loved one can trigger feelings of worry and fear, from how you are going to live without them, to fears about your own death. You may begin to feel overly anxious or even have panic attacks. These are still normal responses of grief and loss, but if they continue on without abating for a prolonged period it would be advisable to seek professional advice and support.
Physical Symptoms – Although we think of grief as an emotional process it often causes physical symptoms as well. Some of these include aches and pains, insomnia, fatigue, trouble sleeping, nausea, weight loss or weight gain and lowered immunity and many more. Sometimes dealing with alleviating some of the physical symptoms can help us deal with our emotions better. A good example of this is alleviating pain as when we suffer pain it often exacerbates our emotional state.
If any of your symptoms of grief continue for more than six months or appear to get worse and continue to interfere with you resuming living your life, then it is advisable to speak to your GP or seek other professional help.
Coping with Grief and Loss:- strategies
There are many things that you can do to help you cope with your grief and loss. One of the most beneficial of these is to seek some support from others. It may feel odd at first but sharing our feelings with friends and family can really help and often surprises us that they can be so comforting. It may be that you are each sharing a loss and so you may also be helping them.
Sometimes it is not possible to share our feelings with people we know, in this case a trained counsellor or listener may be supportive. If you have a religious faith then someone in your religious community may offer support to you.
If you can find no one to share your feelings with then expressing them in a creative form can be cathartic. Writing a journal, painting, poems, music, gardening, cooking, walking and playing with animals… Whatever you like doing best can help with moving through your stages of grief.
As our minds and bodies are connected it is also very important to take care of our physical and emotional needs. Eating well, sleeping well and getting enough exercise helps you to feel physically better and this helps you to feel better emotionally as well.
When we have lost someone or something we love or care deeply about that loss will always be with us. By allowing ourselves to acknowledge our heartfelt feelings and thoughts about our loss, our grief will eventually become more manageable and be free to move from the foreground into the back ground of our daily lives