Losing someone close to you is very painful. You may feel all kinds of difficult emotions and sometimes it may seem like the pain and sadness you feel are just so overwhelming they will never end. At times it may even feel like you're going mad. These are normal reactions to any significant loss, whatever the cause.
What is grief
Grief is the emotional pain suffering you feel in response to a significant loss and the more significant the loss, the greater the pain and the longer it takes to recover. It doesn't matter if the loss is through death, separation, divorce or circumstances, we grieve all significant loss.
While most people would associate grief with the passing of someone close, other causes of grief may include things like:
How do we grieve?
There is no set pattern of grief. Everyone grieves differently and at a different pace and no two losses will be the same. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried. There is no “normal” timetable for grieving, it can take anything six months to three years or more, depending on the individual situation. Be patient and allow the grieving process to happen naturally.
The stages of grief
In 1969, a psychiatrist called Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified what has been termed "The five stages of grief". These are:-
- Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
- Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
- Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
- Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
- Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”
It's a common misconception that we should go through all these stages one after the other, but that's not true. People move in and out of each stage as time progresses and sometimes miss one or more stages entirely!
Common symptoms of grief
As has been said, every loss is unique and there is no predefined set of symptoms that will describe your grief. Some of the most common symptoms include:-
- Shock and disbelief: It can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss has really happened, or even deny the truth of it.
- Sadness / tearfulness: Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may feel empty, despairing, yearning, or a deep, deep loneliness. You may feel emotionally unstable, crying at the drop of a hat.
- Guilt / shame: You may feel guilty or ashamed of some of the things you did or didn’t say or do or about some of the feelings you experienced (e.g. feeling relieved when the person died after a long, difficult illness). Or you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing you could have done
- Anger / resentment: You may feel angry and resentful, even if no one was to blame for the loss.. You may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you.
- Fear and panic: A major loss can trigger a host of worries, anxieties and fears, even panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the about the responsibilities you now face alone
- Questioning your faith: While faith can bring great comfort in loss, it's very common for the loss to raise doubts, fears and questions, too.
- Physical ailments: You may experience such things as fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, loss/gain in weight, general aches and pains, and insomnia
Dealing with grief
Everyone deals with grief differently and in their own timescale. Even within families, no two people will grieve in quite the same way, though there may be strong similarities. So, don't be alarmed or anxious if you seem to be grieving in a different way, or for a different time, than those around you.
When to seek help
There may be times when it takes all you have to get through the day or when you just don't want to face life without the one you have lost. If these are fleeting or only occasional, it's not a cause for concern, it's just part of the grieving provess. Howerver, if you're struggling to cope with life, finding it hard to manage your daily tasks or contemplating ending your own life, then it's important to seek help. You may also want to consider counselling if you feel it's just too much, or you feel you need someone to talk with, maybe someone outside your family or close friends.
Counselling can give you a space to speak of your loss, a place where you can cry, talk, laugh and share what they meant to you. it can give you a place you can begin to rebuild your life, eventually finding your new 'normal', for things won't ever be the same again.
Whatever your situation, you're welcome to give us a call. We can usually offer an appointment within a few days and would love to hear from you.