Everyone experiences it at some point in life. It does not seem a friend but a roaring enemy. It stabs; it stings. Grief, emotional suffering. Grief is a natural response to loss yet nothing about it “feels natural.”
Any loss can cause grief. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. Losses can include things like:
- Divorce, Relationship Break Up
- Loss of Health
- Loss of Job
- Loss of Financial Stability
- Death of Pet
- Loss of Dream
- A Loved One’s Serious Illness
- Friendship Loss
- Selling a Home
Grieving is an individual experience. No two people grieve the same. How one grieves depends on a number of things: personality, coping mechanism, life experiences, faith, and the loss itself. No matter what, the grieving process takes time and healing comes gradually. There is no normal time frame when it comes to grieving and healing. Do not let others or yourself push you or tell you that you are taking too long.
While the stages of grief are commonly known, they are not all experienced by everyone. It is alright if you do not experience each one. You can still find healing. The five stages of grief are:
- Denial – This is not happening to me.
- Anger – Why is this happening to me? Who’s to blame?
- Bargaining – I will do _____, if this stops.
- Depression – I am too sad to function.
- Acceptance – I am at peace with what happened.
If you are unsure if you or someone you love is grieving, there are some symptoms that can help identify. Shock and disbelief can surround right after a loss. It may be difficult to accept and believe what happened. There may be a numbness or denying of the situation all together. Sadness is another symptom. Deep, profound sadness is the most universal symptom of grief. Intense feelings that bring tears and emotional instability. Feeling guilty about the things you said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do is also brought on through grief.
After a loved one’s death one may feel guilt for not being able to prevent it. Anger, at others, God, and yourself. You may feel the need to blame someone else for the injustice while grieving. Worries and fears, as well as helplessness and insecurity can surround in the cloud of grief. Life has changed. How do I go on? Grief can also produce physical symptoms. Fatigue, lowered immunity, weight changes, aches, and insomnia can emerge in the dark grief field.
Despite all the symptoms and pains there are ways to deal and cope with grief. Coping with grief after a loss is not easy so don’t do it alone. Get support. Surround yourself with family and friends. If this is a loss that affects the entire family heal together. You won’t all grieve and heal the same or at the same time, but be willing to cry together and share feelings together. Acknowledge your feelings to others. Don’t avoid your feelings by ignoring, escaping, pretending or burying. FEEL instead: Freely Experience Emotions with Love. Be real with trusted friends or find a counselor or support group you are comfortable with. Allow yourself to experience your grief and find healing. Drawing comfort from your faith may also be key. Pray, go to church, and visit with your pastor. Grieving is personal, but it is not meant to be battled alone!
Be sure to care of yourself. Within the stress of a major loss, your energy and emotional reserves can quickly be depleted. Taking care of your physical and emotional needs during this time can get you through this difficult season. Express your feelings. Write a journal or a letter, make a scrapbook of pictures and memories, or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to your loved one. There are endless positive ways to deal and cope with your grief feelings. Take care of yourself physically. “When you feel good physically, you’ll also feel better emotionally.” Exercising, eating well, and getting sleep can be important in combating the stress and fatigue of this season. Do not indulge in drugs or alcohol to “numb” the pain. This will not be productive for your wellbeing in the long run. Be aware of triggers. Certain anniversaries, holidays, or milestones may reawaken feelings and memories. This is very normal. Find a way to honor the lost one, and talk to someone beforehand about your feelings or fears.
Getting support and taking care of yourself are great ways of coping and dealing with grief. There are also some things you should avoid because they may hinder your healing process. These hindrances include:
- Overworking oneself at your job
- Abusing alcohol, drugs, or other substances
- Compulsive behavior
- Avoiding emotions
- Minimizing feelings
As human beings we all experience loss at some point in life and multiple times at that. Learning to accept, cope, and find healing is vital to our health. Feel your feelings, get help; you are human.