I Am Living

Grief is the feeling of loss that involves all the emotions and reactions we have when we lose something or someone significant. There are many losses we confront in the course of our life. In particular, the death of someone who was loved or not so loved, can cause us to have a magnitude of grief responses. Often, after the death of someone we love or care deeply for, we experience the full extent of grief. We are said to be ‘bereaved’ when we have suffered a loss by death.

Grief is not something people need to ‘get over’. During this time, an individual is coming to terms with their loss and is learning how to live with and manage their grief.

Grief and mourning are often used interchangeably as they refer to the social or public display of grief, shaped by cultural, religious, social, personal, and philosophical factors.

Grief affects everyone differently. It is said that grief is as unique as your fingerprint. Grief can affect us physically, our behaviours, thinking, feelings, social connections, and spirituality.

Physical

People who experience grief may suffer from sleep problems, exhaustion, changes in appetite, tiredness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, rapid breathing, palpitations, a lack of motivation, and generally be more prone to illness. Have a talk to your GP if you are concerned.

Behaviour

People living with grief may experience social withdrawal, heightened sensitivity, distraction and inability to focus, unpredictability, and intense reactions. Some people may be frightened or worried about their grief responses and think that they are “going crazy” or that their grief is out of control, when really, what they are experiencing are natural human responses.

Thinking (Cognitive)

People living with grief may notice temporary changes in memory or challenges in making decisions. They may also doubt their ability to cope with life after their loss and find themselves constantly searching for answers. The question “why?” does not have an easy or straight forward answer and sometimes there is no answer.

It is important to realise that for most people, navigating through their grief to a place of acceptance and healing takes longer than they, and others, may expect.

Feelings (Emotions)

Grieving individuals may experience intense feelings that remain or temporarily intensify through triggers.

Some of the feelings they may experience include sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt, fear, disbelief, panic, confusion, shock, loneliness, and numbness, to name a few.

Positive and negative feelings may coexist as people may feel sadness after their loss but also relief and gratitude (for example gratitude that their loved one’s pain has come to an end).

There is a possibility that depression may re-enter your life or appear for the first time. You may feel as if you are sliding down a slippery slope once more. Whilst this is generally a natural part of the ups and downs of the grief experience, always seek help when concerned.

“Time will heal” is a common saying. Time does soften the hurt somewhat, but mainly it is what you do with the time that makes the difference. You may cry a little or a lot. It can be therapeutic, so do not fight it. Cry when you have to, laugh when you can.

Social

Although a grieving person may have specific expectations of the people close to them, the reality is that they may also be grieving and may not be in a position to provide what is expected of them.

Some people may say “shape up…you should be over it by now… get on with your life” etc. You may feel misunderstood by colleagues, friends, and family. Talk to someone who is able to hold your pain with you. You may also feel lonely as you prepare for life after loss. It is not uncommon for some people to try to make new friends or reconnect with old ones, while others have attempted worthwhile endeavours (for example work, leisure activities, studies) when they have felt ready or able to do so.

“It is so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer…and everything collapses.”

  –  Colette

Source: ‘Healing After Loss’. Calvary Bereavement Counselling Service (2020)

https://www.calvarycare.org.au/public-hospital-kogarah/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2016/04/Healing-After-Loss-2-MB.pdf

“Stereotyping emotional responses as masculine or feminine can be unhelpful and inaccurate. Some men who do seek support and are comfortable with emotive responses may feel threatened to be described as feminine. Similarly, for women who are more solitary and active in their grief being described as masculine.”

  –  Doka

Source: ‘Healing After Loss’. Calvary Bereavement Counselling Service (2020)

https://www.calvarycare.org.au/public-hospital-kogarah/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2016/04/Healing-After-Loss-2-MB.pdf

Spiritual

After a great loss, people often find themselves asking the ‘big questions’ about the meaning of life. Grief often challenges one’s life philosophy or faith. A person of faith might find they question their faith or they may be drawn to it more deeply and find comfort in it. Grief often brings questions and can lead to a search for meaning in the person’s altered world, this is a normal response and can lead to a deeper understanding and the forming of wisdom.