Grief and loss are a part of life for everyone. We all experience it at some point: we grieve for loved ones when they die, for our pets, if we lose our job or our home, or when we experience health and relationship difficulties. But we all experience it differently because we are unique individuals. And we also experience it differently at different times in our lives.
It can be difficult grieving when we have families to look after, jobs to do, school work to get on with. It can be difficult to find the time and the space to deal with the loss. But you are normal if you are feeling lost, sad, angry, numb, lonely, relieved, worthless, forgetful, guilty, depressed, denial, empty, betrayed and many other emotions. Grief brings along with it a whole gamut of feelings and you might find yourself swinging between highs and lows, feeling overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of your emotions. Because we each grieve differently, it can also be hard to understand each other’s way of grieving. But even if someone acts or feels differently from you, they may still be grieving too. It’s important to know that these responses are ALL normal grief reactions.
Equally, it is very normal to experience our grief in our bodies – we may find our hearts racing, feel tense, shaky, exhausted, have difficulty eating and sleeping or conversely over-eating and over-sleeping, we may even find ourselves feeling physically colder. Again, it is normal for our bodies to respond physiologically to grief when we have had a big loss.
These feelings and sensations will change over time, particularly if we have the chance to process our grief and give it the time and the attention it demands but it can sometimes take longer than we expect. If it is a really big loss in your life, it may feel hard for a very long time and some grief might continue to touch you from time to time for the rest of your life. What happens when someone dies or we experience some other kind of profound loss, is more than a set series of stages that we go through and come out the other side, it is more like something that we try to get used to and learn to live with.
It is really important in the days and months after someone has died that we take time to care for ourselves, trying to eat properly and get enough rest even when that seems difficult. There are other things you can do that others struggling with grief have found helpful:
- write a journal
- share memories about your loved one
- make a memory box of keepsakes
- make a special photo album
- create a special place to commemorate them like a memorial garden or a bench
Most of all, you need to give yourself time and permission to grieve and seek help if you need it. One of the most helpful things you can do is talk about your feelings with others. That might be with friends and family or with professionals like your GP. Some people find counselling really helps to provide that safe space to talk.