Grief & Loss
Grief is often associated with the emotions people go through after a death, but grief can occur after any significant loss.
Grief can also occur after relationship break-downs, a parent moving away after a separation, job loss, death of a pet, an injury or illness.
People going through grief can feel incredibly powerful surges of feeling. Often there is an initial sense of shock, numbness or disbelief after which there can be a flood of feelings including sadness, loss, loneliness, anger, guilt and disorientation. Sometimes people feel they are going a bit crazy as the feelings are so strong. Physical aches, pains, insomnia or fatigue may also be part of it.
Grief does pass over time but in the middle of going through it, it may not feel like it is passing. The feelings often come in ‘waves’ and over time the waves of grief usually become less intense and spaced further apart. Healing happens, but it can happen slowly.
It helps to express the feelings when they occur to supportive people we have in our lives. If you feel particularly stuck in the process, seeing a counsellor can be helpful.
Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that can prevent us from moving through the grief process.
The feelings to fight, deny or block the grief can be very powerful and often quite irrational. Often they are much too strong to just stop. The main goals are to accept the feelings and try to take some charge of when, where, and how they are expressed. This is so you can process them but still be able to attend to work or study to some extent. Of course, if the feelings feel really crazy, talk to someone.
Thinking it will be forever
Although a loss may be permanent (such as a death) the grief is not. It will pass, even if slowly. There is often a time after the worst of the grief when everything feels a bit grey and flat but gradually the sun shines through again. People sometimes speak of being stronger and wiser as they eventually have what is now called ‘post-traumatic growth’.
In Western culture we usually think of our identity as being fixed somehow within the individual, but much of our sense of self is made up of our day-to-day routines and interactions. If we lose someone close to us (like a partner or parent) then those day-to-day conversations and interactions are also lost. When people lose this structure they can feel lost – like their sense of self has also gone. Recognising this helps it to feel more manageable, and setting up routines and regular interactions with others can also help.
Below are three things you can do to boost success.
Take care of yourself
It is likely to be tough for a while so be gentle with yourself. You will also cope with the emotion better if you are physically OK, so get regular exercise, make sure you eat properly (even if you have lost your appetite), and try to get regular sleep, etc. Make sure to keep in contact with other people – friends and family. Allow yourself to choose between when you may want to speak of the grief and other times when you just want to be with people, doing something enjoyable.
Recognise the dual-process of grief
Grief involves working through the loss, by acknowledging and expressing the feelings and thinking about the person or thing that has been lost. It also involves restoration oriented activities, such as focusing on the future, keeping on with work or study, etc. If people just try to ‘get on with things’ the feelings often are too strong and come out when you least want them to. Make time for the feelings, but also time for constructive activity. In the first few days, it may be hard to do anything, but after that, a goal can be to try to focus on when and where, and how the feelings are expressed, so as to still be a bit productive at other times.
Exploring what can be carried forward
There is a whole field of study now called ‘post-traumatic growth’. Even if the grief is awful, sometimes people learn and grow in the process - such as valuing things more, becoming more empathic to others, or deepening spiritual or philosophical understandings. People can also look at how to take something of the relationship forward - after a death it can help to also ask how can the person’s memory best be honoured; what did they most bring alive in you, and how can you keep that happening; how can the love they had be something that you keep within you?
Need more info?
Download our booklet
Other useful sites
- Loss and grief - Lifeline
- Coping with grief and loss
- The Portland Institute
- Getting immediate support
- Self care ideas for grievers
- Loss and grief support - Anglicare SA
- Support for suicide bereavement - Uniting Communities
- eCouch includes a modules on grief and loss