Grief is the natural response to losing something or someone who was important to you. In grief, one goes through a variety of emotions like anger, sadness and loneliness to name a few. Grief has different reasons behind it like the ending of a relationship, the loss of a parent out a loved one, sudden loss of job etc. However, these are not the only reasons why people may have to deal with grief. Their might be other causes behind the grief like moving to a new place, suffering from chronic illness etc.
Every person has a different manner and strategy to deal with grief. However, if you can make sense of the emotions and seek support, it is not impossible to deal with grief and come out as a stronger person.
Before I discuss how to deal with grief, you need to understand what is grief?
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What is grief?
Grief is the most natural response towards losing a loved one. It is a cascade of emotional suffering which comes accompanied with a tragic loss . The pain accompanied with grief is generally overwhelming. You might land up experiencing all types of emotions which may range from guilt, sadness, anger to denial, loneliness and shock.
The pain associated with grief can not only make you sad, it can affect your mental health negatively, making it very hard to sleep, eat or even think properly. The more intense the loss, the higher your grief will be. Most often, when people hear of grief, they associate with the loss of a loved one. However, grief can have many forms and can affect you in a variety of situations like
- Loss of a loved one
- Loss of a job
- A miscarriage
- Divorce or break up in a relationship
- Loss of health or a chronic or terminal disease
- Loss of financial stability
- Retirement m death of a child
- Loss of a dream that was cherished
- A loved one suffering from a terminal or serious illness
- Loss of a friend
- Swelling the family home
- Loss of the feeling of safety post trauma
- Loss of an animal friend/child
Sometimes subtle instances can also trigger grief like changing jobs, going away from home etc. The most important thing to understand here is that your loss is personal to you. You must not feel ashamed regarding your feelings. You should also not feel that only certain conditions or situations warrant the experience of grief. If the loss was of a person, job or animal who was close to you, it is normal to deal with grief.
The stages of grief
When a person deals with loss or grief, the feelings generally tends to come in stages. It is not possible to control the emotions, but gaining an insight into why you are feeling a certain way can help. Even though these stages are not considered as the ideal manner to think of grief, you may be aware of these stages which a person goes through when grieving
This is the first stage of grief and sometimes the longest one as well. The moment you get the news of a loved one’s demise, you think, “this cannot be happening, this is not possible” etc. you might experience a feeling of numbness or shock. This is the defense mechanism of your mind kicking in and saving you from feeling the overwhelming emotions.
This comes in with the settling in of the reality. You start to feel the pain of the loss. You realize you will never be with that person again. All you have are the memories to hold on to. At this point, it is normal to start feeling helpless and frustrated. These are the feelings which later evolve onto anger. It is natural to be angry that the person you loved so much just left you to deal with life all on your own. It is natural to feel this way.
This is the stage of grief when you will think what could have been done to save that person or relationship. The most common thoughts people think of at this moment are: if only, what if etc. sometimes at this point people also try to bargain with God to send their loved one back, mend a broken relationship, get back the old job etc.
This is the fourth stage in dealing with grief. When people enter this stage, they start to understand the loss and the impending effects of the loss on their lives. This is the stage where a lot of people get stuck and find it hard to conquer. They may even slip into depression. The primary signs of depression at this stage are: crying, sleep problems, loss of appetite, feeling overwhelmed, unable to perform daily tasks., lovely and finally regretful.
This is the final stage of dealing with grief. This is the stage when the person starts to accept the reality of what they have lost. They understand that the person they lost is not coming back and they should stop expecting the same. The sadness persists, but the person is ready to move in with their lives now.
There is a chance that you may go in between the stages for a while before proceeding to the next one. Everyone has a different manner of dealing with these stages.
Some people may even skip a few stages. That’s okay. It is not necessary to go through every stage to deal with grief. There will be reminders like the death anniversary, a song you shared, dishes your loved one loved. These may trigger the grief to return.
Physical symptoms of grief
Grief has many forms and it affects every person in a variety of ways. So far, I have mentioned all the emotional symptoms you may feel if you are grieving. However grief manifest itself in physical forms as well like:
- Reduce immunity levels
- Weight gain or loss
- Pains and aches
Now that you know what is grief and the emotional and physical symptoms of the same, it is time that you understand the types of grief that exist
Types of grief
No grief is normal or abnormal. However, there are a few types of grief which show symptoms and reactions different from the ones which have been described above
As the name indicates, this is the grief in anticipation. This grief starts before you experience the loss of a loved one, job or relationship. This grief mostly hits when your loved one is terminally ill. For example, your beloved animal companion is terminally ill and there is nothing you can do to help. Such situations bring on the grief before the loss has actually occurred.
Anticipatory grief mainly involves anger at being helpless in the face of crisis. Anticipatory grief gives you time to prepare for the upcoming loss. It also allows you to prepare for the upcoming loss, any pending or unfinished business and finally say your goodbyes.
Disenfranchised grief occurs when when you cannot openly mourn your loss because your loss is either stigmatized or devalued by others. Society thinks that such loss is not worth grieving like loss of an animal companion, job or a friend.
Such type of grief can also occur if your relationship to the deceased is devalued by the society. People consider it wrong to grieve over the loss of a neighbor, classmate or work colleague. This makes it harder to accept the loss and deal with grief in a healthy manner.
A person is said to suffer from such type of grief when they find it hard to let go. The pain over the loss of a loved one never goes away completely, but it reduces enough to allow you to resume your normal life process. In case you notice that you are finding it hard to get back to the normal routine of your life even after a long period has passed since you lost someone, you are suffering from complicated grief.
When it is too long a mourning period?
There is no time limit to how longa person might need to deal with grief. The grieving process depends on a variety of factors like the personality of the person, how close you were to the person who you have lost, your beliefs and finally the support network that you have. The type of relationship also makes a difference. Death of a spouse or partner will hit harder than that of a distant relative.
When does a person need professional help to deal with grief?
Sometimes, despite of trying everything, the grief is overwhelming and does not become better with time. It just tends to keep dragging you down with it. You find it impossible to accept the loss you have ensured. This type of grief is referred to as complicated grief.
If you are suffering from the below mentioned signs and symptoms, it is an indication that you must consult your doctor and seek professional help to deal with grief.
- Trouble carrying on with your everyday routine like doing the house chores or going to work.
- Constantly depressed mood
- Constantly feeling that this life is worthless and maybe you should end your life or harm yourself
- You are unable to stop blaming yourself for what happened to your loved one.
How does a therapist help deal with grief?
The role of a therapist is to help you deal with grief by exploring your emotions. Your therapist can also teach you some coping skills which will help you deal with grief. If you are depressed, your doctor may prescribe your some medicines.
In case you are a victim of emotional pain, it will be very tempting and easy to give into food, alcohol, drugs it even over immersing yourself in work. However these are not good coping strategies. These are only temporary escape routes which won’t help you feel better or heal faster in the long run. Engaging in such activities can even lead to depression, anxiety disorders, addiction or emotional breakdown.
Try the following methods instead to deal with grief
Give yourself time
Time is the biggest healer of all. Try not to live through the grieving process at a super quick rate. Allow yourself time. Tell yourself it is okay to feel this way and one day this will pass. Accept your feelings and understand that grieving process takes time and should not be fast forwarded.
Talk to friends and/or family
Having a proper support group is very important to help you deal with grief. You do not need an army to support you to deal with grief. One friend whom you trust the most is more than enough. Spend time with your friends and family. They might be grieving too. Talk to them. Do not isolate yourself from your family or the society. This is not the time to be alone. This is the time to be with family.
Take a good care of yourself
The first thing that gets neglected when a person has to deal with grief is their own self. Never neglect yourself or your body . Exercise on a regular basis, eat good nutritious food (not junk food), make sure you get a proper nights sleep so that you can stay energized the next day. It’s the little things that matter because these can have a huge impact on your life down the road.
Go back to your hobbies
There is no better way to distract yourself and take your mind away from the pain than indulging in your favorite activities or hobbies. Take the time out to spend with yourself and your favorite hobby. Feel that joy and the sense of accomplishment again
Join a support group
Support groups are a great place to share your grief. It will make you realize that you are not the only one suffering from the loss of a loved one. Others are suffering too. You will help yourself while helping others deal with grief.
Understand that everyone reacts to grief differently
Grief can be very frightening and confusing to many people. This happens especially if they have not been through a similar experience. They may not understand how to offer you help or comfort you. They might end up saying or behaving in an inappropriate manner. However, do not let this drive you away into a shell or isolate yourself. Understand that they are trying to help you the best they can. They care for you and that is why they are standing by you during your time of need.
Consult a grief counsellor
A grief counsellor is different from a general therapist. They have special training to help clients deal with grief in the most healthy way possible. An experienced grief counsellor can be a huge help. He or she can help you with their difficult emotions and overcome the obstacles you meet in your grieving process.
Face your feelings
Most people try to suppress their grief to get back to normalcy. However suppressing is not the right way to deal with grief. Trying to escape or avoid your feelings will only make the grieving process much longer for you. Unresolved grief is known to cause further complications like anxiety problems, substance abuse, depression, stress etc.
Express your feelings creatively
Sometimes it becomes hard to talk about what stresses you the most. It is not necessary that you talk to deal with grief. There are other options available to deal with grief as well. You can engage in art therapy. Art therapy can help you express your feelings in the form of art. Art is a non verbal mode of communication. You can start painting, sculpting, coloring, singing, dancing etc. Do whatever helps you deal with grief. Everyone deals with grief in a different manner. So, your way to deal with grief may not appeal to someone else. However, if it works for you, use it.
Do not allow anyone to tell you how to feel
Grief is a very individual thing. No one else can tell you when it is time to ‘move on’ or ‘just get over it’. You must allow yourself to grieve without worrying about what others might think. You can cry, not cry, be angry, sad or depressed. You may find moments of joy as well. Everything is okay.
Plan ahead for the triggers
Grief of a loss never goes away. However, it is easier to deal with grief of you plan ahead for the emotions which would barrage in during holidays, anniversaries, and other important milestones which you shared with the person you have lost.
Grieving is healthy and natural. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Grief can have many forms as well as signs. You must take your time to grieve. Rushing the grieving process or suppressing your emotions will not help you in the long run. Spend time with people who support you, engage in your hobbies, express your thoughts and inner feelings in a creative manner if talking is hard for you.
If after a point of time, you notice that you are doing everything to deal with grief but the grief is not settling or leaving and is hindering your daily life, you must consult a grief counsellor or a psychotherapist. They will help you navigate through the barrage of emotions and deal with grief in a healthy manner.
Frequently asked Questions
What is the best way to deal with grief?
Everyone has a different strategy to deal with grief. However, here are the strategies which can help anyone who is struggling to deal with grief
- Seek out people who care for you
- Take care of yourself
- Engage in your hobbies
- Be patient with yourself and do not rush the process
- Consult a psychologist or grief counsellor
- Face your feelings
- Do not ignore or suppress your emotions
What are the stages of grief after the loss of a loved one?
There are primarily 5 stages which a person has to navigate through when they are trying to deal with grief:
Which is the hardest stage of grief?
Acceptance is considered to be the hardest stage of grief. some people are never able to completely accept that their loved one is gone forever and they won’t see that person again.
Do you ever stop grieving?
Unfortunately No! Grief never goes away. It only reduces to the point where you can resume your daily activities and move on with life. But the grief is always there because the person you lost was loved. The love never goes away.
How long is too long a period of grieving?
If you have been grieving for over a period of 6 months, then you are going through complicated grief. It will be very hard to get out of this grief without getting help. At this point, it is best if you consult a grief counsellor or physiologist to help you navigate through your emotions and deal with grief.