Grief is a natural response to loss. You will experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, and obvious sadness. The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical and mental health, making it difficult to eat, sleep, or even think straight. These are normal reactions —and the more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be.
Your loss, it’s personal to you, so don’t feel ashamed about how you feel, behave or believe that it’s somehow only appropriate to grieve for certain things. If the person was significant to you, it’s normal to grieve the loss you’re experiencing. Whatever the cause of your grief, though, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain that, in time, can ease your sadness and help you come to terms with your loss and eventually move on with your life.
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Some have to be busy to keep their minds occupied, by simply going about their life. Others shut down completely. It’s how you respond and no one should tell you otherwise. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your faith, and how significant the loss was to you. Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. It is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it. Feeling sad, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them. There is also no specific time frame for grieving. How long it takes differs from person to person.
- Acknowledge your pain.
- Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions.
- Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.
- Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you.
- Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.
- Recognize the difference between grief and depression
Moving on means you’ve accepted your loss—but that’s not the same as forgetting. I don’t believe anyone forgets a loss but you can move on with your life and keep the memory of someone. In fact, as we move through life, these memories can become more integral to defining the people we are.
While grieving a loss is a part of life, there are ways to help cope with the pain, come to terms with your grief, and eventually, find a way to pick up the pieces and move on with your life. Shock and disbelief. Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened, or even deny the truth. If someone you love has died, you may keep expecting them to show up, even though you know they’re gone. I’ve done the same when I went to my Nan’s house a few days after the death and looking over to my Grandad’s chair and not seeing him sitting there. It was just a normal thing for me to look over that area. That’s when I think it hit more, he’s gone forever.
You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings. After a death, you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more you could have done.
Anger. Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.
Fear. A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. You may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.
The pain of grief can often cause you to want to withdraw from others and retreat into your shell and that’s understandable. Nevertheless, having the face-to-face support of other people is vital to healing from loss. Even if you’re not comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you’re grieving. Comfort can also come from just being around others who care about you. The key is not to isolate yourself.
Now is the time to lean on the people who care about you, even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Turn to friends, significant other (if you have one) and family members. Spend time together face to face, and accept the assistance that’s offered. Often, people want to help but don’t know how, so tell them what you need—whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, help with funeral arrangements, or just someone to hang out with. If you don’t feel you have anyone you can regularly connect with in person, it’s never too late to build new friendships.
Accept that many people feel awkward when trying to comfort someone who’s grieving. Grief can be a confusing, sometimes frightening emotion for many people, especially if they haven’t experienced a similar loss themselves. They may feel unsure about how to comfort you and end up saying or doing the wrong things. But don’t use that as an excuse to retreat into your shell and avoid social contact. If a friend or loved one reaches out to you, it’s because they care.