Grief is both a physical and emotional reaction to the loss of a loved one. Because grief can happen for a lot of different reasons, and each person has different ways to cope with that grief, it can take some time for anyone who’s dealing with grief.
Well-known psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, developed the idea of the five stages of grief. The five stages of grief – shock/denial, anger, anxiety, depression and acceptance – were explained as a step-by-step process that grieving individuals would go through.
But, we now acknowledge that grief is not so simple. Some may find their experience mirrors the stages outlined by Kubler-Ross but other may find they experience two stages or skip all but one. Grief is unpredictable and there is no right way to feel grief.
The important thing to remember is that we will experience grief at some point in our lives, and while it is different for everyone, there are ways to ease the pain of your journey.
Here are some tips to consider if you’re dealing with grief, so you can focus on health and healing.
Allow Yourself to Feel Your Emotions
Many people who are struggling with the death of a loved one try to avoid it or ignore their grief altogether. And although this may make you feel better able to cope with it at first, the reality is that it’s not very healthy and may even hinder you from completely accepting it.
No matter the distractions you try to set up for yourself, you have to give yourself time to feels the emotions and acceptance them, whatever they may be. It may take you weeks, months, or years to feel like you have finally accepted the matter.
The most important thing to remember is that every day you are healing, take one day at a time. Grief is very individualised, it’s complicated, and it’s also intensely personal.
Here are some general emotions that you may come across when you’ve lost a loved one. It is important to allow yourself to acknowledge them and implement strategies to heal.
Shock and Denial
Many people who are grieving start out in a state of shock and denial, where the body is trying to protect itself from feeling such intense emotions, letting in only as much as it can handle. You’re denying the event has ever happened and suppressing any feelings relating to this. These feelings are often accompanied by confusion. Denial will eventually fade, you start to feel more strongly and have more intense feelings.
You may feel very angry about the loss. You resent the loss and feel the rush of intense feelings that go with it. It is okay if you feel anger, no one deserves the loss of a loved one. Be careful not to direct this response to people around you. Do not hold or hide your anger either, this anger needs to be expressed. Try to get it out in a constructive way, either by exercising or try writing down the different reasons as to why you might feel angry.
You may feel anxious about the loss. You may experience feelings of hopelessness and increased vulnerability. You start to see the world as harsh and unforgiving. When experiencing anxiety, you need to surround yourself with a good support system that makes you feel secure and safe. And if you ever feel like your anxiety is impacting your day-to-day life, it is advisable to talk to someone you trust or reach out to a mental health professional who can help your process your feelings better.
It’s very common for someone who has experienced the death of a loved one or another serious type of loss to fall into depression. Often described as a feeling of great emptiness and hopelessness, depression can be a vacuum that pulls you further down. This typically lifts after a period of time, but for some people, it can be difficult to rise from. Never be afraid to seek help if you feel like it’s making you lose control of your life. There are a number of help lines and websites available for your comfort.
Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you can finally accept the way of life and acknowledge the loss. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten them or that there’s no longer any pain, but only that you’ve accepted the new reality.
You start to embrace the memories you have with them and how they impacted your life in a positive way. You become grateful, you remember what you learnt from them and what you can pass on. You might even laugh at their specific personality traits that you once were annoyed at, you might remember their sense of humour or the specific jokes that they would repeat. You might reminisce the different experiences you had with them, even those that may have unintentionally turned into little traditions. Once you reach this stage, they will remain with you in your heart.
Reach out to Loved Ones and Professionals
When you lose a loved one, never be afraid to reach out to family, friends, and people you trust. You need a good support system around you, and friends and family are often the places to get it. Also stay open to the idea of counseling, because some people need it and can benefit a great deal from talk therapy and other types of support.
Some people try to avoid talking to others because they don’t want to burden or inconvenience them, but in difficult times interact with other people and express your fears and worries along with your emotional pain helps you heal better. Allow others to do things for you until you feel you are able to.
Manage Stress and Take Care of Your Health
You need to take care of yourself during a stressful time, and there are several ways you can do that. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and getting some exercise to raise your level of endorphins are all important. While it may not seem like a priority, it can make a difference in how you feel and how much you’re able to do. There may be plans and decisions that have to be made, along with people to contact and other factors surrounding the loss. When you take better care of yourself, you don’t only feel better and get through a difficult time more easily, but you’ll also be able to help other family members who may need your help or guidance.
Find Time to Do the Things You Like
You may not really feel like doing the kinds of things you used to enjoy, but you could end up feeling better when you find the time for your past hobbies and pursuits. Returning to those hobbies can help, as can getting out of the house to do new things, taking a walk, or even starting on a new creative project. You may have to force yourself at first but it’ll get easier to do things that bring you joy. Don’t ever feel guilty for doing things for you because it doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten your grief or that your loved one didn’t matter.
Coping with Grief Is Personal and Possible
It’s important to realise that you can take the time you need to grieve and that there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no “one size fits all” approach to grieving, and everyone will experience it differently. Give yourself some time and don’t be too hard on yourself. Now is not the time for self-criticism.
If you need help with loss or coping, we can help. Olsens runs bereavement support services to all families in our care. A member of our bereavement support team follows up on each family after the funeral and literature can be sent or, if a family member wishes, arrangements can be made for them to speak with our team personally.
Feel free to contact us anytime on (02) 9545 3477
We know how difficult it is to lose a loved one and to deal with the issues that take place afterward. Reach out to us today and we will do our best to make a trying time easier for you.