We all experiences change and loss during our lives, it is a natural, though often challenging part of our human experience. Grief is actually the adaptation process to change and loss. This mourning process is unique for all of us; it does not follow a set pattern and can be expressed in many individual ways. At times emotions may feel overwhelming and seem without end. Grief can crack our hearts open to a depth of being that we had not experienced previously. With support and time the process of grief journeys us through adapting to our loss and changed life.
There are many different types of loss such as:
- Loss of a relationship
- Loss of a loved one through death
- Loss of health
- Loss through miscarriage
- Loss of safety through trauma
- Loss of a role or job
- Loss of financial security
- Loss of home/belongings
- Loss of a beloved pet
What may be experienced during grief?
A broad range of feelings can be experienced after loss such as sadness, shock, anger, loneliness, numbness, yearning, fatigue, anxiety and fatigue. Physical sensations can also be experienced such as tightness in the throat and chest, hollowness in the stomach, shortness of breath, lack of energy, dry mouth, weakness in the muscles and over sensitivity to noise. Thought patterns such as confusion, preoccupation and disbelief can occur. As well as behaviours such as appetite and sleep disturbances, absentmindedness, social withdrawal, dreams, avoidance of reminders of the loved one, sighing, restlessness and crying.
Be mindful of myths!
There are many unhelpful myths about loss and grief such as ‘be strong and get on with things,’ ‘don’t cry it will make it worse.’ These types of beliefs are untrue and unhelpful. Tears are a natural way of expressing emotion and true strength comes from being present with our vulnerability.
What supports you to grieve?
- Giving permission to yourself to grieve and permission to be present with what you feel.
- Breathe with whatever emotion or experience arises. Deep full breaths are a powerful way to ride the waves of your grief.
- Being gentle, kind and caring of yourself as grief can be a huge adaptation process which can take time and energy.
- Knowing that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
- Sharing, expressing how you feel and what you are experiencing with a trusted friend or family member.
- Balance spending some time alone and some time with others.
- Journaling may also be another to express and process what you are experiencing.
- Being mindful of the role of thoughts.
- Taking things one step at a time.
- Be aware that places, events, situations can trigger your grief.
- Allowing times or little activities which give some reprieve from your grief.
- Avoiding making major decisions while grieving unless necessary as it can be difficult to think clearly.
- Being mindful that drugs and alcohol may affect you differently.
Examples of what can challenge or hinder our grieving process?
- Many factors can impact upon the intensity of your grief and often increases its challenge. For example, if we lose a loved one through death, factors such sudden, traumatic, unexpected or prolonged death can build intensity.
- Present grief can trigger memories of past unresolved grief and it can feel like it all comes up at once.
- More than one change or loss occurring in a short period of time can compound grief.
- Losing someone though breakdown of relationship or death who you cannot speak openly about can complicate grief.
- Inadequate natural support such asn family and friends, pets can hinder our progress, yet remember that support is always available when and if needed trhough eg counselling.
Our grief can be complicated and challenging. If you are struggling to cope it is important to ask for support. Grieving is not something you need do alone.
If you are supporting another to grieve.
- Acknowledge and talk openly about their loss and grief.
- Offer your support.
- Listen to the one who is grieving. Let them share as much or as little as they choose to. Allow silence to be okay.
- Let them know they are not alone.
- Let them know that healing will take time.
- If you find yourself in a situation where you do not know what to say to another who is grieving, simply let them know that you do not know what say, however you are there for them.
- Avoid saying things that may appear to offer comfort, yet minimises or negates their grief such as telling them about all of the things they should be grateful for.
- If you are concerned for their well being or safety, support them to access appropriate support.
- Be compassionate and patient with them.