Grief occurs after we have lost someone or something important to us.
When it comes to coping with grief and loss, every single individual has a different experience, with some of us needing more help and support than others.
What is Grief?
Grief is a natural emotional response, affecting all of us some stage.
It may occur following the loss of a loved one, or even a pet; but it can also occur after a divorce, or even the loss or destruction of a cherished or sentimental item such as your home, car, etc.
With the devastation of the current COVID-19 pandemic around the world, many people are coping with grief and loss – mourning their loved ones, or simply the freedom to travel and the comparatively unrestricted lives we led before.
Grief and loss is also not unusual following:
- a traumatic experience;
- a relationship breakdown;
- a sudden job loss;
- losing money;
- a move to a new location;
- the end of a long held dream or life goal.
As a result we may feel intense sadness and pain, as well as other more unexpected emotions such as:
- frustration and anger;
- anxiety and worry;
- and feelings of numbness and detachment.
These are all normal psychological reactions following a significant loss, and it’s common to feel out of control.
When a big change happens in our lives, it can be challenging not to be overwhelmed by the impact it has on your situation and circumstances.
How Grief and Loss Affect the Body
Grief can have a big impact on the body, leading to headaches, changes to eating routines and sleep patterns, aches and pains, tiredness, weight changes, feeling sick and rundown.
It may also make us feel that we have lost our ability to focus and think clearly, or we may become forgetful.
5 Stages of Grief
Grief can be divided into the following five distinct stages:
- Denial – In the denial stage, you may feel shocked and disbelief at your loss. The world may seem meaningless, and facts stop making sense. For example, if your relationship has broken down or you have separated from your partner, your mind will trying to convince you that it hasn’t happened and you are still with your partner. This is because your mind becomes overloaded by the enormity of your loss, and so tries to reject what is so difficult to accept.
- Anger – After denial, comes anger. During this stage, you may look for someone or something to blame for your loss, and your mind tries to find reason where there is none, as it attempts to make sense of what has happened.
- Bargaining – In this stage, you start bargaining with God, the universe, fate and yourself, to restore life as you knew it before the loss. This is more likely to happen when you still have hope that things could still turn around (eg following a devastating diagnosis).
- Depression – When bargaining doesn’t work, you may feel helpless and hopeless. You may suddenly become emotionally withdrawn and detached from your surroundings, feeling that none of your friends, hobbies or loved ones seem to bring you happiness anymore.
- Acceptance – Acceptance is when you come to recognise the reality of the situation, and that nothing can be done to change the situation. It doesn’t mean being okay with your loss. It is about realising that you have to live in a world where someone or something you care about is missing.
Taking Care of You
When you are coping with grief and loss, it is important to take care of yourself. This begins with day-to-day tasks like attending to your personal hygiene, eating well and exercising, and socialising. It may also include:
- Allowing yourself to experience the pain and emotions of grief;.
- Distracting yourself through physical activities;
- Finding creative outlets to express your feelings;
- Talking to friends and relatives about your loss and how you feel about it.
- Striving to be thankful for past experiences, and celebrating what you had, instead of descending into regret, guilt and blame.
- Joining a support group;
- Allowing yourself time to heal.
Finally, if you are finding it a real struggle to cope with your feelings of grief and loss, or others have expressed concern about how you are handling things, please don’t hesitate to seek out professional help.
Author: Vishal Patel, M Social Work, AASW, AMHSW.
Vishal Patel is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, with significant experience in working with victims of trauma, abuse and violence. His area of interest includes addressing significant complex and challenging behaviours in children under the age of 12 years. He is able to provide therapy in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.