Experiencing loss can be emotionally challenging. It’s a process that requires time, and everyone responds differently to it. Coping with changes in our lives following a loss can be difficult, and it’s important to remember that grief is a universal human experience; there’s no need to face it alone.
What is grief? Grief, often referred to as bereavement, is our response to loss. While many associate grief with the death of a loved one or a pet, it can also follow any significant loss, such as the loss of a job or a relationship. People also experience grief when they receive a diagnosis of an illness or other health-related issues.
The way people experience grief varies widely, it’s common to feel shock, sadness, anger, fear, or anxiety. Some individuals might feel emotionally numb or have difficulty expressing their emotions. Grief is a complex and deeply personal experience. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to it. The feelings, thoughts, and reactions associated with it are unique to each person. It’s not uncommon for someone to have conflicting emotions, such as feeling deeply sad about their loss while simultaneously accepting it. Everyone works through their grief at their own pace, following their own path.
What can be done about it? While people express and discuss their grief in different ways, the common thread is that we all experience grief in our own time. In many cases, with the support of loved ones and a network of friends, people gradually return to their daily routines. However, for some individuals, seeking assistance from a mental health professional may be necessary. Grief can be complicated when the loss is sudden, unexpected, traumatic, or the result of a crime. Other factors, such as pre-existing mental health issues, lack of personal and social support, and complex personal relationships, can also impact how grief is processed. Grief counseling, a specialized form of therapy, may help individuals navigate these complexities.
Here are some recommendations to help:
- Allow yourself the time you need to grieve; there is no fixed grieving period.
- Recognize that your life has changed, and it’s natural to feel less engaged with work and relationships for a while.
- Prioritize your physical well-being and consult a healthcare professional if your grief is impacting your health.
- As the intensity of grief lessens, consider revisiting old interests and exploring new ones.
- Embrace your emotions, whether they are sadness, anger, or any other feeling. Find constructive ways to express them, such as talking to friends or keeping a journal.
- Be honest with children and young people about the situation and encourage them to express their feelings.
- Special occasions like holidays can be especially challenging; planning ahead and creating new traditions can support the healing process.
- Think carefully before making major life decisions; your perspective may evolve as your grief subsides.
How can you support a loved one through their grief? It’s common to feel uncertain about what to say or do when someone close to you is experiencing a loss, especially if you’re also dealing with your own grief. However, being there for them with empathy and understanding can make a difference.
- Respect their journey and their way of expressing emotions.
- Don’t avoid talking about the loss; sharing thoughts, memories, and stories can be comforting.
- Encourage them to engage in social activities, even if they often decline, to show that they remain an important part of the community.
- Understand that the situation may be compounded by other stressors such as financial hardship or legal matters.
- Ask what they need and let them know you’re there for support, even if they’re not ready to discuss their feelings with others.
- Remember to take care of your own well-being and seek help if necessary, as supporting someone through their grief can be emotionally taxing.