Understanding Grief & Loss
When those we love die, we are propelled along on a unique journey, a journey of losses, pain, sadness, confusion, changes and adjustments; a virtual emotional roller coaster. This is the journey we call grief.
GRIEF IS A NORMAL RESPONSE TO LOSS
When someone we care about dies, all the feelings, emotions, and physical symptoms we experience, are called grieving. Grief is a normal, natural response by which we adjust to living with any significant loss. It’sthe total response to the crises of losing something precious. Nature has provided us with this grief process – a built in psychological mechanism by which we adjust to our losses. It is similar to the healing process where by a wound heals by the skin closing over it – we just can’t always see this tangible evidence.
GRIEF IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE
Our grief response or journey through grief is unique– for every person you know it will be as different as our fingerprints. Our relationships with each person in our lives is unique because of our different personalities, therefore our loss of that person will also be unique to ourselves. The nature or strength of our relationship or attachment to that person will determine the intensity of our pain and suffering. For example, your reaction to the loss of a work colleague or acquaintance may be totally different to the loss of a close family member or beloved pet.
GRIEF IS THE PROCESS OF LEARNING TO LIVE WITH THE LOSS
Unfortunately grief does not follow an ordered path where you will be “better” when you reach the end. Grief is a process of learning to live with the loss that accompanies a death, and many forms of expression and behavior patterns are acceptable reactions to the loss.
Put simply it is the journey of:
ACCEPTING THE REALITY
Feelings of shock, numbness, an unreal feeling, feeling as though this is happening to someone else.
EXPERIENCING THE EMOTIONAL PAIN
As the shock lessens you may find you are unprepared for the intensity of your feelings. Feelings of intense sadness, anger, anxiety, confusion, depression, resentment and many more. Physical feelings are also common such as loss of appetite, changes in sleep patterns, headaches, backaches, tummy upsets and many others. All our energy is invested in coping with the rollercoaster ride of emotions and feelings – this is our “grief work” and it is hard work adjusting to an environment without that person – Learning to live without that beloved person in your life, going out socially on your own, doing all the tasks that were normally shared, finding a way to fill the void the loss has left. This is where a grief support group can be so helpful as you share with people who are experiencing similar struggles.
LEARNING TO LIVE WITH THE LOSS
Learning to live with the loss is at least being at peace with it and finding ways of reinvesting in life, still with a loving connection to the person who has died. Grief is not always present, but also never completely gone.
GRIEF IS HARD WORK
Grief is hard work and our “grief work” is adjusting to our changed circumstances and accepting the reality of the loss and to life without the person you loved. Talk about them, talk about the life you had, as much as you need to, and you will need to be able to do this many times. Grief will come and go at different times with varying intensity, sometimes overwhelming you with a wave of intense feelings. Grief involves many changes in your life that you must learn to cope with as well as dealing with the pain of the death of the person you love. All of these need time to adjust to- talking about these changes, about how you feel, about the person who has died, about the meaning of your relationship- help you to slowly make the adjustments to live with your changed relationship. It is hard work to learn to live without this beloved person, to try to build a new identity and world for yourself. Grief is such hard work that you can be unprepared for the intensity of your reactions – accept them all and express them as often as you need to, this is our work towards healing.
SOME OF THE EFFECTS OF GRIEF
There are many effects of grief; physical, spiritual and emotional, you may experience some of these or some not even mentioned here – these are all normal. Anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, relief, loneliness, sadness, depression, numbness, fatigue, sensitivity to noise and smell, dry mouth, weight gain/loss, tummy upsets, sleep disturbances, disbelief, confusion, absent-mindedness, lack of concentration, hallucinations. Questioning of your faith, searching for meaning.
Grief Takes Time
SOME WAYS TO HELP OURSELVES IN TIMES OF LOSS
Allow yourself to grieve in your own way. Cry, talk as often as you need to, keep a journal, make a memory book, pray, listen to music, make a memorial shrine. There are no hard and fast rules, just whatever works best for you.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO GRIEVE
There are no time limits on your grieving. It is not something you have six months in which to complete, as many well meaning friends can think. Take all the time you need, the bigger the loss to you, the longer the time of grief and healing.
LEARN ABOUT GRIEF
Read some of the excellent books available about Grief and Loss. The more you understand the “process” the better you will understand what is happening to you personally. Try reading ones that relate to your particular loss, for examples “loss of a child” or “loss of a husband”.
DON’T MAKE IMPORTANT DECISIONS
If you can, leave important decisions until much later. Many impulsive decisions made when you are experiencing so many intense emotions, are the wrong ones and often regretted. Many people have sold their homes soon after their loss only to regret it dearly some time later- Take time for important life changing decisions.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
If you feel unable to cope and at the end of your endurance, see your G.P or seek help with a professional grief counsellor.
There are many really good books, supportive organisations and mutual help groups available, for example “Widow & Widowers Association”, “Bereaved Parents”, Hospice support groups,.
We can help put you in touch with these groups or contact us for our helpful grief booklet “My Journey”, or share your story with other experiencing similar losses.