Loss is more than a bereavement; loss can expand to a loss of a relationship, a pet, a job, a diagnosis, loss of sight, loss of independence or loss of the future. Present losses can trigger past losses. People can experience “disenfranchised grief” with losses that are not acknowledged by society and are considered as taboo e.g. miscarriage, abortion, loss of dreams, or the ending of an affair.
Everyone’s experience of grief is unique. One can experience grief in many ways, be it physically*** or emotionally. The duration of these will vary in length and intensity with each person. A person can experience a range of emotions including:
There can also be a range of physical symptoms such as
- Lack of energy
- Sleeping difficulties.
*** If you are experiencing these physical sensations, it is also important to visit your GP to carry out a physical examination or blood tests to rule out any other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.***
Things that can help
Grief is exhausting. The process of loss and grief is something that we, unfortunately, can’t speed up or fix. There is no right way to grieve and there is no simple formula in how long our grief should last. Processing of loss doesn’t occur in a linear way but rather, we can dip in and out of a range of emotions. Generally, a combination of “doing” and “being” activities can help.
Doing (Activities) – By engaging in some of your daily or favourite activities, such as work or hobbies, it doesn’t mean you have forgotten about the person you are grieving. It is ok and important to look after yourself and make room for self-care activities. There will be enough moments of grief, where it’s important to enjoy moments of joy and normality when they arise.
Being (Allowing your emotions) – Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise. With grief, it can catch us off guard where sometimes, we can feel a wave of emotion at unexpected times and scenarios. The more we fight off trying to feel these unpleasant emotions or we fight against ourselves (e.g. “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”), the stronger the emotions can emerge. By allowing yourself to be with your experience, can help. It can be more helpful to do so in a comfortable environment or with someone you feel will validate your emotions. If talking to someone is hard, try to write, type or draw whatever you’re experiencing in terms of your feelings and thoughts.
Talk about it: Loss can make us feel isolated as no one will truly understand your loss and what the loss means to you. Although it can be incredibly difficult to share, speak to a trusted friend or family member about what you are experiencing. It’s more beneficial to speak to someone that you are going to feel validated and heard by as opposed to speaking to someone who may judge your experiences e.g. “You should be over that by now” and want to offer solutions e.g. “It is time to move on”.
Additionally, reaching out to someone outside of your close circle can offer non-biased support and an outsider’s perspective. Counsellors and therapists can help explore your emotions and thoughts regarding your loss. They can offer a space that is non-judgemental to explore the significance of your loss. Therapy can offer healing while also supporting you in adjusting your loss and develop techniques in how to face new obstacles.
With any of the above things suggested; it’s important to acknowledge that this is difficult and on some days, it might be harder to engage than others. Giving yourself allowance and compassion for this is also important. Be patient and gentle towards yourself. You will probably be met with opinions of “This is what you should do” and “This will make you feel better”. Remember, there are no rules for grieving and it’s ok to grieve in a way that works for you.