How to Deal With Grief.
Grief is a debilitating devastating emotion and it can crush you. Only you will deal with the grief in your own way, there is no right or wrong way and no one can tell you otherwise.
What is grief?
Grief is a natural process that we experience when it comes to the loss of a loved one. Grief is our body’s way of coping with the emotional suffering when someone we love is taken away. We will often have an overwhelming emotion of heart-wrenching heartache.
The initial feeling of coming to terms with such an emotion can be a shock, horror, anger, disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. Our emotions of grief can cause devasting mental health issues and can also disrupt our physical health.
Dealing with grief may make sleeping more difficult, taking care of our well-being and eating habits even going as far as loss of appetite. It can even cause us to not think properly or clearly and cause us not to be able to perform mundane tasks, let alone more complex actions.
Dealing with grief are natural responses and emotions which are normal reactions and the more important and significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be.
Different types of Loss.
There are many ways of experiencing grief, it may not necessarily be through death but could be something that causes us to feel helpless and not in control.
Having to lose someone near and dear to you can be a life-changing event and emotion and very debilitating.
Having to learn to cope and to start life over again, not having something or someone around can be challenging and can put our mental abilities to the test.
Different Forms of Loss & Trauma.
- Loss of a job
- Loss of financial stability and support
- Going through a Divorce
- A break-up of a relationship
- Loss of health
- Death of a Pet
- Loss of a Business
- Loss of a Friend (breakdown of friendship or death)
- Loss of a Parent through Death
- Loss of a Sibling through Death
- Loss of a Child through Death
- Loss of a Spouse, a wife, or husband through death (from a sudden event as well as a serious illness)
- Loss of a family home due to financial issues or divorce
- Loss of your assets because of theft (including sentimental belongings)
- Loss of your pride and dignity, self-worth due to physical and mental abuse
- Loss of a cherished dream, taken away because of an unexpected financial issue
- Loss of your safety net through financial difficulties or mental and physical abuse
- Loss of a working environment (workmates) due to retirement or changing jobs
- Rape. (Loss of virginity or loss of self-worth due to rape)
- Loss of self-worth through Physical and Mental Abuse (Domestic Violence)
- Loss of dignity and pride, due to racism and discrimination
- Loss of confidence due to humiliation, trust issues, belittlement, betrayal, and other insecurities
- Loss of freedom due to incarceration
Life events not only are to do with death. Life events can cause us to feel the subtle loss that can trigger a sense of grief and other emotions. For example moving away to a different area due to work or other factors, leaving your school/college/uni friends due to graduation causes us to endure the feeling of separation or simply changing jobs, and leaving your workmates can all cause us to experience sadness.
Our loss is personal.
Our loss is individual and very personal to us, not everyone will understand the feeling of emptiness unless they have experienced it for themselves.
Regardless of your loss, it is personal to you. People may experience resentment, anger, or start blaming themselves if they had done things differently the loss could have been avoided.
When you suffer the loss of a person, animal, relationship, or situation which was significant to you, it can cause intense inner emotional pain of heartache. The heaviness of having a broken heart can slowly heal through therapy.
The pain will never go away but will not feel so intense over time and eventually, time will help you move on with your life.
When we grieve our mental strength can be tested to its limit.
Grieving is a very unique experience and no two losses ever feel the same. There is no ideal way to grieve it is very individual to us and we can only cope with the grieving process by how well we can cope mentally.
Not everyone has a strong mindset some people cannot cope with change regardless of how insignificant it is. In order to overcome grief, there must be an element of time and therapy and having the mental strength to move forward.
Overcoming grief depends on many factors, including your mental well-being, if you have mental health issues this can cause the problem to become worse. Your personality and ability to tackle problems and get around obstacles, your life experiences, your faith, and how significant the loss is will determine how well you heal.
Healing cannot be hurried it is a gradual process and cannot be forced. For some people, they can heal relatively quickly but for some, it may take many years. Healing cannot be measured, in weeks, months, or years, it is a persons mental state of mind that will determine how long it will take to heal.
- If you try and ignore grief and not think about the ordeal, it will not go away, you need to find a way to deal with your sadness.
- Crying does not mean you are a weak person. In fact, it is good to cry and release sadness and despair.
- Putting on a brave face to protect your family and friends does not help anyone in the long run especially if they are grieving the same grief as you. Being open and talking about your feelings are the first steps to recovery.
- If however, you are unable to show emotion that also is another way of your body copying, some people cannot show how they feel and end up bottling things up. If you cannot cry that does not mean you do not care any less, everyone has their own unique coping mechanisms.
- Moving on with your life does not mean you have forgotten it just means you have re-adjusted to life without your loved ones. Moving on does not mean you have accepted the loss it just means that you can live your life without them, but continue to keep the memory alive.
Everyone will experience the loss of a loved one at some point in their lives. It is part of life itself. When our hearts are broken into smithereens it is sometimes very difficult to put them back together again.
Finding the right help, guidance, and therapy can be useful if the loss of a loved one is sudden. You do not have to do it alone and you can find someone to help you and be your support worker, to help you get through the most difficult times.
Time heals but does not forget!
First Steps to Healing.
- Admit you feel sad, do not pretend that you are ok.
- Talk about your sadness to your family and friends.
- Make an online memorial page where others can share their stories. Create either a website or a Group on Facebook rather than a public page, which means people can share their memories and have the posts approved by a group admin member before they can access the memorial.
- Start a diary (virtual or physical) or write a biography about their life.
- Create a scrapbook of memories, express your feeling in a creative tangible way. (For me I preserved some leaves from my brother’s oak tree).
- Dedicate a tree or forest in their name (Woodland Trust)
- Get a park bench with the person’s name (Contact your local council office).
- Be creative and make something that will always remind you of them. (put their photo in a locket or charm bracelet or print their image on a keepsake).
- Start a foundation or raise awareness, and or give to a charity.
- Surround yourself with images of the person or pet you have lost.
- Share your memories and celebrate their life through anniversaries.
- Understand that the feeling of grief can trigger other emotions (anger, denial, depression, etc).
- Take care of yourself even though you find life meaningless (Your body is your temple).
- Speak with a GP or Grief Counselor
- Know the difference between grief, PTSD, and depression.
- Dedicate your life to the person you have lost by public speaking.
The Five Stages of grief
Studies made by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969 introduced what would become known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her research of feelings of patients facing terminal illness. She spoke of:
It must be noted that not everyone who grieves goes through all of these five stages of grief. In some cases, people have been known not to experience any of these emotions and have managed to heal.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross never intended for these stages to be a rigid framework that applies to everyone who mourns. In her last book before her death in 2004, she said of the five stages of grief: “They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to lose that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives.”
Grief can be an ocean tears of emotions.
People in the early stages of grief may feel intense numbness or sadness and as time progresses the ocean of emotions can be high tidal waves and ebbing flowing lows. It takes time to overcome loss, with some people never fully recovering at all. Even years after a loss, especially on anniversaries, special places, special events such as holidays like Christmas and family reunions, and birthdays, the emptiness of not having the person present can be very upsetting.
Symptoms of grief
- Intense Devastating Shock and Disbelief, not being able to accept the loss.
- Paralyzing Numbness of what has happened and you feel cold without and emotion or empathy.
- Denial, that it is just a bad dream it has not happened and you are still expecting them to show up even in reality that they are gone. You look for them in a crowded place. (I once saw a homeless man that looked the spitting image of my brother and I gave him money and bought him food).
- Anger, of why you lost someone as opposed to someone else losing someone.
- Blame, Blaming yourself, had you have done things differently that this could have been avoided or not doing enough.
- Questioning yourself, questioning your sanity, are you going crazy for feeling so low and questioning your faith and God.
- Sadness, emptiness, despair, deep loneliness, and yearning.
- Guilt, having said something that you wish you could have unsaid, feeling relieved that the person has gone and is not suffering or the guilt of not doing enough to prevent them from dying.
- Fear, of how, will you cope without them emotionally and being alone as well as coping financially, how will you be able to live without them.
- Anger, you may feel disdain for everyone around you because they are living and breathing and your loved one is not. Even feeling resentful to the doctors that should have done more to save the person.
- Abandonment, feeling angry because the person has abandoned you even though you would have given your life for them.
- Robbed, feeling like the person has been stolen from you and an injustice has been done.
Physical & Mental symptoms of grief.
- Fatigue, grief can manifest in many ways, some people feel very tired and just want to curl up in a ball and sleep all the time and not do anything else, hoping that life will be different when they wake or sleep because life is pointless to stay awake and do anything.
- Insomnia, some people simply cannot sleep, they overthink and may be up all night worrying and obsessing.
- Isolation, some people isolate and no longer wish to be sociable. (This is me in a nutshell)
- Depression, intense sadness 24/7 that you cannot shake, whilst others are inconsolable and cry all the time.
- Weight, grief can also affect your physical health by either make you gain weight or lose weight.
- Substance Abuse, some people start smoking, drinking, or take recreational drugs just to numb out the hollowness and loneliness they are feeling.
- Lowered Immunity, poor diet, and other physical attributes can cause lowered immunity which in turn causes the person to be susceptible to other illnesses.
- Mental Illness, grief can also lead to anxiety, stress, depression, and PTSD, the trauma of losing a loved one can also cause mental illnesses such as OCD.
Coping with grief is always a very delicate matter and it is your own personal preference how to try to deal with it. Talking to your friends and family is always a good idea as well as your GP and Health Professional that are expert in grief counseling. The relief of talking to someone can help lessen the burden of your loss. Listening to other people’s recollections and memories of the person that has died help you to find closure.
However, if you turn to friends they may not be able to help you as you would expect especially if they have never experienced grief themselves.
Close friends in particular often do want to help but don’t know-how, if they have not experienced death firsthand.
If you need help with arranging funeral directors, planning a wake, and sorting out finances then appoint someone that can manage all your affairs, they do not necessarily have to be a friend but a funeral planner company that offers the services. Understand that some people may feel awkward about helping so turning to a professional institution can help take some of the stress away.
People who have never experienced death will not understand what you are going through they can second guess but until they experience it for themselves they may not be able to give you the full support you need.
Not having the right support can make things difficult if your friends are unsure how to comfort you and they may feel like they are walking on eggshells in the fear of saying or doing something wrong. This is why it is good to speak with a professional or join a group.
If you are religious try to turn to your faith to find peace, alternatively if you are questioning your faith and God go to your church and arrange a talk with the clergy. People find going to church and praying or spending time at the graveside comfort.
There are many social media support groups that you can join as well as finding physical meeting places. If you want to interact physically or virtually, take the first steps to counsel and sharing your sorrow with people who have experienced similar loss as you. . To find a bereavement support groups in your area, contact local hospices, funeral homes, and counseling centers.
Acknowledging you will never see your loved one again will help you heal and ease some of the pain. Acknowledge your feeling, of sorrow, despair, loneliness, and intense sadness. Understand that this is normal and you have to experience it to move on. Typical denial is trying to avoid or acknowledging and refusing to talk about and hiding away. This can lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems. The first step is acknowledging you will never see that person again.
Honour their life.
Plan ahead of anniversaries, make a memorial, something people can reflect and remember. Build a celebration of life events your loved one had and allow the people that knew them to join in.
Your Personal Health
Your mental and physical health is paramount. Your body is your temple therefore you should treat it like one. Get enough sleep, maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid substance abuse to numb the pain. If we have a healthy body we will also help to have a healthy mind.
Complicated Grief is like being stuck in an intense paralyzed state of mourning. You may not be able to accept the death and you end up obsessed and preoccupied with the person who died which in turn disrupts your daily routine and causes problems in your other relationships.
Complicated Grief includes:
- An obsessed feeling of intense longing and yearning for the loss of your loved one. Living and breathing just the person you have lost, looking and searching for anything written about them. Talking about them 24/7 in an obsessed way.
- Intrusive thoughts or images of your loved one. (I have a problem with anything to do with water, like rivers and whirlpools, and cannot watch anything to do with drowning or look at images).
- Panic attacks, reliving the trauma over again.
- Nightmares, constant nightmares of the ordeal or the person and the circumstances.
- Denial and a sense of disbelief, not coming to terms with the fact the person has actually gone. Refusing to acknowledge they have actually gone.
- Avoiding, mentioning their name or the places they once went to or avoiding looking and touching things that remind you of them. (I cannot physically go back to and visit the street where my family home once was because it brings back too many painful memories).
- Anger and bitterness, over your loss of your loved one, hating the world and everyone in it. (I personally experienced this especially when my mum passed away, I hated the world but I am over it now, I do have different anger now where my brother is laid to rest, which I was not consulted over).
- Feeling that life is pointless and that there is no reason to carry on. (Suicidal Thoughts).
If your loved one died an unexpected sudden death either a heart attack or something that was an accident, violent or disturbing you may be experiencing complicated grief which can manifest as psychological trauma or PTSD, (my brother died by drowning).
The sudden loss of a loved one where you have had no time to prepare for their passing means you will experience intense crushing shock. It will feel the whole world is falling apart around you and you are sinking. It will make you feel helpless and you will be struggling with upsetting irrational emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away, if this is the case you will have been traumatized.
Knowing the difference between grief and depression
Thinking and obsessing over a person 24/7, week in week out is called depression. If you are consumed by the loss and nothing else matters and no matter what you do you cannot shake the feeling of contestant emptiness and despair you have depression and you need to speak with your GP as soon as possible. Knowing the difference between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy as they share many similar attributes. When you’re in the middle of the grieving process, you will still have moments of pleasure or happiness, depending on how intense and complicated your grief is. With depression the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant and if it consumes your life 24/7 you need to seek help from a Health Professional.
Symptoms of Depression.
- An intense, sinking feeling of hopelessness.
- An obsession that you cannot step out of (which could be an obsession about the person who has departed or the obsession about death).
- Suicidal Thoughts, or a preoccupation with dying or planning ways how to die.
- Hopelessness or worthlessness.
- Feeling fatigued and lethargic.
- Slow speech and body movements, because you have no need to rush.
- Not being able to function properly, (at home, at work, and/or at school/college or University). It could also be not being able to make important decisions or manage finances.
- Imagination, Seeing, or hearing things that aren’t there.
Medication is usually prescribed for people who have depression, anxiety, stress disorders, insomnia, and mental health problems as well as physical illnesses. In most cases, grief does not warrant the use of antidepressants unless the grief is intense and complicated. Sometimes people who are inconsolable may be prescribed valium to calm them down or other sedatives. For people who have intense grief that is inconsolable, they may be referred to a counselor for grief therapy.
It is unadvisable to self-medicate or to use recreational substances such as alcohol or drugs as numbing the pain only prolongs the grief process rather than helping the person come to terms and heal. It is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound and when they sober up the reality of the fact is still there.
Seeking Professional Help.
If the pain is unbearable and you feel your world is crashing down around you you need to seek professional help straight away. If you leave your symptoms untreated, complicated grief and depression can lead to significant mental health issues and emotional damage, life-threatening health problems, and even suicide.
Contact a grief counselor or professional therapist if you:
- If you feel you cannot cope and your life is crashing down around you and cannot perform simple tasks or manage to make important or even simple decisions.
- If you are obsessing over the person 24/7, week in week out, and your life is consumed with every thought of the person that has died.
- If you feel like life isn’t worth living anymore because the person is no longer in your life.
- If you wish you had died with your loved one.
- If you are having suicidal thoughts.
- If you blame yourself for the loss or not doing enough to prevent them from dying.
- If you feel total numbness to society and prefer to disconnect from people and isolate yourself.
Note From The Editor.
In my lifetime I have experienced death many times from when I was little I paid my respects to a boy in an open upright coffin, who had fallen from a cherry tree in Poland, I think I was 10 at the time. Then a family friend died approximately 12 hours before his wedding from a heart attack something like eleven years later and I had to console his fiance. When I came to Wales and worked at the Holiday Resort in Barry Island (Majestic Centre) in 1992, I had to console a holidaymaker’s wife and son because the husband had a heart attack and died.
Then in 1992 a close friend of mine, a very beautiful successful singer who toured Europe and was famous in a band in Germany but came back to live in Wales, committed suicide in Dinas Powys.
Years later I then experienced personal grief where my father passed away in 2004 and then my mother in 2007 and then the most crushing and devasting blow was when my brother in 2010 died in a freak accident and most recently my ex-husband only last week 16/05/21
For me, the coping process is to surround myself with photos and memories of the people I have lost and to keep their memory alive by talking and writing about them.
This is my way of coping as even after the passing of both my parents and my brother I am still grieving in my own way and occasionally when I have time to reflect I am consumed with intense sadness but find keeping myself busy and not having time to think helps me to carry on.
Most recently my ex-husband passed away and again I feel sadness as I always cared about him and never stopped. (I wrote a memorial post expressing my feelings it was my way of coping with the sad news, I do not think I needed permission for that as it is part and parcel of the grieving process and everyone’s grief is different and how you cope is entirely your choice).
The news was shocking to me that he had died. I thought I had time to make amends as that was my ultimate goal. I am now consumed with guilt and regret that I should have reached out when I had the opportunity, I just took him for granted he would always be around and that I had plenty of time.
I have learned you do not know what is around the corner waiting for us and building bridges is a must if you do not want to have regrets. Finding forgiveness and putting all indifferences aside are the first steps to healing and moving on.
There is no time like the present to say “sorry”, what is done is done you cannot turn back the clock but you can move forward, saying “I love you” can mean a lot and may make a difference, also remember to create memories.
For me, I have experienced complicated sudden death five times and I have also experienced one particular emotion of anger.
My anger still manifests inside of me eleven years on, because of the circumstances where my brother was laid to rest. I was not consulted on the location other than it was the Woodland Trust and where his ashes are it is no longer ‘Woodland Trust Land’ but private land as I believe the land changed hands within the last few years.
Not only that my anger festers inside over something someone once said to me about six months after my mother’s passing “so how long are you going to expect to grieve for?” I never forgot those words and never have forgotten the person that said them to me (J.M). The words were cutting and heartless and it was like rubbing salt into a gaping wound.
So in order for me to ever pay my respects to my brother or visit the oak tree is no longer possible. Some will say his spirit has left and is now just energy surrounding us and in a way, I do agree but it also nice to have a place to go to remember the person and to reflect. Maybe in time, I may find the strength to forgive but as it stands I still have the anger embedded in my soul.
My brother in his will said he wanted his ashes buried in woodland but never said exactly where. I am sure there is a ‘Woodland Trust’ where my parents are buried. I was told the reason for the location was it was my brother and his partner’s special place they visited often. What about his family that obviously did not matter? The location is nowhere near ‘Lake Windermere’ but in the middle of a field on the outskirts.
His partner at the time took it upon herself to make the arrangements without consulting me. Having his ashes in the middle of a field approximately 257 mi (413 km) is not ideal and now is virtually impossible to visit. I have other grievances but will focus on the subject of grief.
I am now carrying the emotion of guilt and regret that I should have reached out to my ex-husband sooner and told him how I really felt.
I have also experienced other types of grief not to do with death, such as relationship breakups, divorce, losing a business, loss of self worth due to physical and emotional abuse, loss of dignity, loss of assets. I won’t go into everything individually but I have carry many war wounds.
I suffer from clinical depression and OCD it is manageable with the medication I take. I have been on my medication for many years now, I am now looking into neuroplasticity as a form of treatment.
I have written about grief in the past:
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