Dealing with grief and loss
Grief is a universal response to loss, whether that be the loss of a loved one, relationship, job or lifestyle. The larger the hole the loss leaves in your life, the more intense the grief is likely to be.
Grief and loss aren’t just terrible feelings, but it can have an impact on your physical and mental health and other facets of your life.
It’s important to remember grief does not have a deadline, and healing happens over time. While you may always carry some sadness once a person is gone, eventually it becomes easier.
The grieving process is different for everybody
You might have heard a lot of different things when it comes to processing grief; ‘There are five stages of grief’, ‘Women grieve more than men’, ‘If you aren’t crying, then you’re not really grieving’. The fact is, there is no right, or normal, way to cope with loss, and each person will have their own reaction.
You might be very visibly upset, sad and angry, or the loss could leave you feeling numb, so that you and others may not recognise how deeply it’s affecting you.
While most people are well-meaning when they give advice after you’ve experienced a loss, it’s important to remember that everyone experiences grief and loss differently.
Strategies for dealing with grief
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it will take time to work through. Here are some strategies to help cope with grief.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Grief can be isolating, as you might feel like you are the only person in the world feeling the way you are. But it is important to speak up, whether it be to a counsellor or trusted friend, if your grief becomes overwhelming and it becomes difficult to deal with everyday life.
- Talk to friends and family. Your friends and family should be your lifeline in times of pain. Accept offers of help, share memories, or simply spend time with others to help get your mind off things.
- Do things you enjoy. Even if you don’t really feel like doing them, you will feel better and it will help you get back to enjoying your life.
- Take care of your physical health. Grief can be exhausting and all consuming, and everyday tasks like eating and sleeping can feel impossible. Regular exercise and healthy food will help you get back into a routine.
- Don’t “should” on yourself. There’s no one way to grieve. Don’t feel like you “should” be doing anything differently – your way is your way.
Strategies for helping someone who is grieving
It can be tough to watch a loved one grieving and you may feel like you’re powerless to help. However, it’s in these times of hardship that we need our friends and family the most. Here are some ways to help someone who is in mourning.
- Ask how they are feeling. Sometimes just asking a simple question can allow someone to open up and ask for help, or even give them space to talk about their loss. Take the time to listen and understand what they are going through.
- Ask them how you can help. Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop when you’re grieving. Everyday life goes on with its stresses that are much more difficult to deal with when you’re coping with a loss. Cooking a few meals or doing the shopping can help lighten the load.
- Do something together. Spend some time doing things to get them out of the house like watching a movie, going for a walk or preparing a meal together.
- Encourage them to seek support. If their grief doesn’t seem to be easing over time, then you should encourage them to seek professional support.
Preparing for the loss of a loved one
The period after losing a loved one is always difficult. Even in situations where your loved one is still alive but you are anticipating their death, it is not uncommon that you may experience ‘anticipatory grief’ whereby you start experiencing a range of emotions that go hand-in-hand with mourning like loss, dread, guilt and sadness.
Everyone’s coping method for dealing with pre-death grief is different, but you might find it helps to talk to a family member, friend or counsellor about how you’re feeling and to ask for support when you need it. You might even find comfort in talking to the person who you are caring for - sharing feelings and memories can be a cathartic release for you both, and discussing things like funeral preparations or matters relating to estate and life insurance ahead of time can help you avoid added stress when you are dealing with their death.
Preparing to grieve doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t grieve when your loved one does pass, but it can give you an opportunity to identify the coping strategies that will serve you best when you need them most.
When to seek professional help
Sometimes talking things through with an objective and non-judgemental third party can be incredibly helpful when you’re experiencing a period of grief.
If you feel like your grief is making it impossible for you to live your day-to-day life, attend work or tend to other relationships, then it’s important to get professional help and support.
This article was written in conjunction with Beyond Blue. For more information on grief and loss, visit the Beyond Blue website.