When someone close to us passes, the confusion and mixed emotions we feel can often become overwhelming. However, it is important to recognize that there is no standard way of experiencing loss and no right way to grieve. It is completely normal to feel a mixture of shock, anger, guilt, despair and relief, along with many other different emotions. There are, however, some things that you can do which may help you to cope, along with people who can support you, if you need it, during this period in your life.

Recognizing grief

Losing someone we love is something that we all have to go through at some point in our lives. Each experience is personal and different, and can be influenced by many factors. Your feelings are likely to be affected by the relationship you had with the person, your cultural background, and your religious beliefs.

It is important to remember that grief may be displayed in different ways for each individual.

Despair – a grieving person can feel despair and feel at a loss as to how they will cope and what their future life will hold.

Numbness – it can often feel like you are living in a “fog” after the loss of a loved one. You may feel numb or worry that you have not cried, but feeling numb is often a coping mechanism when experiencing intense emotional situations. Gradually over time the feeling of numbness subsides, allowing us to start functioning and healing.

Physical symptoms of grief

When grieving it is common to experience physical symptoms, such as:

  • Loss or increase in appetite
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Lethargy – feeling drained, having no energy
  • Headaches

It is important to be kind to yourself and give yourself the time and care that you need to transition through the grieving process.

Grief can manifest itself in a range of emotions:

Shock – you may have thought that you were prepared if the death was expected or because you’ve experienced a loss previously. But whatever the circumstances it is common to feel an initial sense of shock at the passing of someone close to us.

Anger – it is very common to feel anger whilst you are grieving; this can be because they passed before their time, things that happened between you or did not happen, or anger that they are no longer there.

Guilt – people often feel a sense of guilt that they themselves have not passed, or guilt at certain circumstances involving their loved one.

Coping with grief

As with the many different factors that contribute to how we express our grief there are also various processes that can help us to cope:

Give yourself time – focus on one day at a time, helping you to cope with your emotions and get through simple, everyday tasks.

Recognize your emotions – recognize the reasons for your emotions and symptoms, even the physical ones. When experiencing them give yourself time to work through them.

Support from family and friends – having a support network of family and friends can be extremely helpful. If you do not have this type of network then support can often be found through counseling services.

Talk about your grief – talking, whether about your feelings or about your loved one, with family, friends or a dedicated grief counselor is an important part of the grief process.

Sometimes our grief can become overwhelming and it is important to recognize when to get additional help. Part of the process is to acknowledge that life will not return to normal - it is about understanding that your life has changed and finding a balance between the two.

Working through your grief is not about forgetting the person but about learning how to live your life with the grief that you feel.

Over time your life will take on a new shape and meaning.

“There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go.”
– Author Unknown

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Hope and healing for the grieving