Grief is a normal emotional process that happens when adjusting to a loss or change. It happens not only when someone has died, but also after things like a job loss, the ending of a relationship, or while anticipating a future loss. Grief is a complex process that has no concrete roadmap, but there are some common factors that influence the process we go through. Some of these factors are:
- Our relationship with the individual who is gone
- The circumstances surrounding the loss
- Our current coping mechanisms and how past emotional distress has been handled
- The availability of support networks while we grieve
(Living Through Loss, 2017)
No matter what we are grieving, it is difficult, painful, and exhausting.
Part of the difficulty in grief, as I alluded to above, is that the roadmap isn’t clear. What we do know, however, is that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. It is okay to feel relief, emptiness, or nothing at all when coping with a loss. It’s also okay to cry, feel physically exhausted, be angry, or struggle with feelings of guilt. Grief is a process that is unique to each person and so our bodies and our minds will respond as best they can in whatever way they feel is best for us to move on; in other words, they do the best they can at the time, with what they have to work with.
Sometimes the timeline of grief can be a challenge. Often, we expect ourselves, or even others expect us to move through the grieving process more quickly than we’re able to. It’s important to know that it’s okay to take as long or as little time as we need to move forward. Given the popularity of the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), many people believe that they need to go through these five stages linearly to move forward (Living Through Loss, 2017). That may be the case for some people, but it is not for everyone. As mentioned above, people experience a wide range of emotions and experience grief in different ways so their grieving process may not always be forward moving. Sometimes we get stuck, sometimes we go backwards, or sometimes we’re all over the place and have a mix of good days and bad days, which sometimes ends up looking like a mess.
How do we manage while all of this is happening? With how intense and exhausting grief can be, it is vital that we take care of ourselves. Often, we’re so overwhelmed we can’t even think of how to take care of ourselves. Here are some suggestions for ways you can practice self-care while going through the grieving process:
- Avoid drugs and alcohol since they may make you feel worse
- Avoid isolating yourself and find support from a friend or counsellor
- Get lots of rest. Grieving is exhausting, so you will likely be more tired than usual
- Drink lots of water and try to eat the best you can, and try to avoid sugar and caffeine
- Exercise, even if it’s only going for a walk around the neighbourhood
- Give yourself time and permission to mourn as often as needed
- Do things that make you feel good such as journaling, art, listening to music, reading
- Be kind to yourself. You’re doing the best you can
(Living Through Loss, 2017)
After some time, we will adjust to our losses. It’s hard work and takes time, but eventually, we can come to terms with what has happened, grieve and mourn our loss, and move forward. However, some people find themselves stuck. This experience has been described as something called Complicated Grief. Some of the signs of complicated grief are:
- Being unable to move on
- Being unable to carry out everyday routines
- Isolating yourself
- Feeling intense loneliness or numbness
- Feeling extreme sorrow, pain, or depression
- Feeling that life has no purpose
- Ruminating or experiencing intrusive thoughts about your loss
- Wishing you died with your loved one
If you notice that you or someone you care about are experiencing any of these symptoms, then may be time to seek out professional help such as counselling. Therapy can give you a space to talk about your loss and help you to work through your thoughts, feelings, and memories relating to your experience. Counselling can also help to identify and work through any potential trauma relating to the loss and helping you to adjust to this change.
I hope this article has been helpful if you’re experiencing grief and loss. We’ve all been there, and some of us are there right now with you. If you could use some help as you walk through this journey of grief, we would love to talk to you. Please give us a call or contact us anytime, we’re here.
Complications of Grief. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/aa129291
Grief and Loss Resources. (2017). Retrieved from https://livingthroughloss.ca/