Grief is a complex, varied, valid and entirely natural response to loss. It will feel and appear differently for every one of us. We grieve depending on our relationship with the person who has gone, the length of time, and the context.
Reactions to a loss can be physical and psychological. It is not uncommon to experience periods of intense distress and feelings such as (but not limited to) the following: longing, crying, dreaming of your loved one, anger, denial, sadness, despair, insomnia, fatigue, guilt, loss of interest, confusion and disorganisation, disbelief, inability to concentrate, preoccupation with thoughts of your loved one, fleeting hallucinatory experiences, meaninglessness, withdrawal, avoidance, over-reacting, numbness, relief, sadness, yearning, fear, shame, loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, emptiness, loss of appetite, weight gain.
Yes, this is a list of just about every sign of every “mental health condition” that’s ever existed. Because grief is intense. It highlights every way that it is possible for a human to feel intense emotions.
Grief highlights every way it’s possible for a human to feel.
There is a wealth of advice out there that is sound and trustworthy – NHS and Marie Curie (amongst others) have in-depth experience and advice on this topic. Key takeaways for coping are listed below.
Writing a journal can provide an outlet for our emotions. Talking is often a good way to work through painful emotions too – it helps you process and gives you connection and support. Talking to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor can help with the healing process. For it is a process, and it will pass.
“In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You cannot now realise that you will ever feel better. And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Cry when you want. Sadness is a healthy part of the grieving process. As the great Shakespeare himself wrote:
“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.”
You may also feel numb at times, or angry, or even cheerful – that’s ok too. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the person you’ve lost; it means you’re dealing with it.
Try to got to bed and get up at regular times. Keeping up simple things like jogging and walking the dog helps.
Emotional strain can make you very tired. You may find you’re having trouble sleeping, this is very normal in times of change – but if it continues, see your GP.
Eat regularly and as healthily as you can. You may feel like sugar-binging (or drinking more alcohol) – try not to. A healthy, well-balanced diet will help you cope.
Such as alcohol and drugs. They make take your mind off things or lift your mood temporarily, but will make you feel worse once the numbness wears off.
But perhaps not straight away. Counselling may be more useful after a couple of weeks or months. Only you will know when you’re ready.
It may take months, or years to process the feelings of grief and for the intensity to subside. Sadness often sits with us. And that is ok. That is human. If the feelings of grief don’t begin to lessen with time, or you find it difficult to manage daily activities, for example you might struggle to go to work, look after children or socialise with friends, or if you feel you’re not able to cope – seek the help you feel you need at that moment.
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