How to Cope with Loss & Grief
How to Cope with Loss & Grief
Loss and grief are experienced after losing someone or something we care about. This could be the death of a loved one, the termination of a relationship, the loss of a job, a change in our lifestyle, as well as losing possessions that matter to us. The grief we feel in such moments should not be considered a disease and it is in fact a normal response to life events that everyone eventually faces.
According to Help Guide, in order to adjust, heal, and learn to live a life without that person or without that habit, we need time, support, and proper coping techniques. However, the coping is not always straightforward and a lot of people feel overwhelmed and experience a lot of new and sudden emotions like shock, disbelief, and profound sadness.
Since the ache caused by grief can negatively influence one’s physical heath (you lose appetite, you cannot sleep, etc), it is pivotal to be able to cope with our loss in the right way so that we can help ourselves overcome the sadness quicker, accept what has happened, and move on with our lives.
How Loss & Grief Change Us
Since grief is an individual experience, its intensity, our reactions to it, as well as its duration, may vary from person to person. Below, you can read the most common reactions when one is in a period of grief:
- Shock and denial
- Constant crying
- Anxiety, stress, and confusion
- Guilt, shame, and anger
- Isolation and withdrawal
- Different behavior
- Changes in sleeping in eating habits
- Inability to concentrate
- Disinterest in usual hobbies and activities
- Higher usage of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Suicidal and self-harm thoughts
- Poor immunity
- Loss or gain of weight
What is also worth pointing out is that there is not a right or a wrong way to grieve and in most cases, this is a result of numerous factors like our personality, age, life experience, faith, and coping methods, as noted on Help Guide. The healing process usually requires some time to pass and it should never be forced, i.e. some may need several months to feel better whereas for others, this may require years. Regardless of what kind of grieving experience you are going through, it is crucial to learn how to be patient with yourself and give space for the process to naturally evolve. To achieve this, you need to learn more about the stages of grief you will go through.
Stages of Grief- What Do They Mean?
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist, in the 70s implemented what is now known as the Five Stages of Grief, which she based on her studies of the feelings in patients who were facing terminal diseases, but, a lot of people have also associated them with other unfortunate losses and changes in life, for example, a breakup or a death of a loved one. Here are the 5 stages explained:
- Denial- This could not be happening.
- Anger- Why is this happening?!
- Bargaining- I will do everything to turn back time.
- Depression- I am too sad to be able to do anything.
- Acceptance– I am at peace with this.
If we take into consideration that grief is a rather individualized feeling, one may or may not go through all of the five stages or any of the stages in order to heal. Hence, for numerous people, grief does not occur as something divided into segments, but it is similar to a ride on a roller coaster, as pointed out on Help Guide. That is, in the beginning, one feels worse and goes through a difficult period. As the time goes by, these emotions reduce in intensity and duration.
According to Help Guide, working through a loss is challenging and even though you feel healed, grief may reappear during special life events like a wedding or a birth of a child.
The Importance of Support for Loss & Grief
Since the pain caused by loss and grief can lead to withdrawal from others, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of getting support from others so that you can heal. Often, people do not find it comfortable to express their emotions, even though this is decisive to their healing. According to Help Guide, although sharing how you feel about losing someone can ease the burden, this does not necessarily mean that every interaction with friends or family members needs to be about the specific loss.
You can find solace from just being surrounded by people you love and who love you. In addition to being with friends and family, you can also share your sorrow in a support group, i.e. with people who have gone through similar experiences or by undergoing therapy with a health professional who is trained to help their patients resolve their complicated feelings and get back on their feet.
Self Care while Grieving
When you grieve, you can easily forget to take care of yourself. Very often, the excessive negative stress can use up all of your energy and lead to a decline in your overall physical and emotional health. To go through this period of your life easier, remember to:
- Face your emotions- healing requires acknowledging the existence of the pain. Otherwise, suppressing grief can lead to anxiousness, substance abuse, and depression.
- Express yourself creatively- writing down how you feel about your loss can help you heel faster. If you are grieving the loss of a friend or a family member, why not make a photo album to celebrate their life or join an organization they cared about?
- Take care of your physical health- since the body and mind are intertwined, as seen on Help Guide, a good physical health will enhance your ability to cope emotionally. To fight off stress and tiredness, make sure you sleep, eat, and exercise sufficiently. Avoid artificial mood enhancers or large amounts of alcohol and drugs.
Final Thoughts on Loss & Grief
Without doubt, losing someone with whom you have created a significant bond or affection can be a heavy burden to carry in an emotional, but in a physical, social, and cognitive aspect too. However, as loss is an inevitable part of the human experience, it is crucial to learn how loss and grief affect us and how to come out of this journey stronger and healed.
Although there are a lot of people who carry this burden throughout their whole lives, it does not always mean that it will prevent them from living their life because they have learned how to live with it. A major role in learning “how to live with it” is played by social support from friends, family members, as well as health professionals and proper self care techniques.
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