Understanding Grief and Loss
When those we love die, we are propelled along on a unique journey, a journey of losses, pain, sadness, confusion, changes and adjustments; a virtual emotional roller coaster.
This is the journey we call grief.
Grief is a normal response to loss
When someone we care about dies, all the feelings, emotions, and physical symptoms we experience, are called grieving. Grief is a normal, natural response by which we adjust to living with any significant loss. It is the total response to the crises of losing something precious. Nature has provided us with this grief process – a built in psychological mechanism by which we adjust to our losses. It is similar to the healing process where by a wound heals by the skin closing over it – we just can’t always see this tangible evidence.
Grief is different for everyone
Our grief response or journey through grief is unique – for every person you know it will be as different as our fingerprints. Our relationships with each person in our lives is Unique because of our different personalities, therefore our loss of that person will also be unique to ourselves. The nature or strength of our relationship or attachment to that person will determine the intensity of our pain and suffering. For example, your reaction to the loss of a work colleague or acquaintance will be totally different to the loss of say, a loved family member or beloved pet, because your attachment t your family or pet is so much stronger.
Grief is the process of learning to live with the loss
Unfortunately grief does not proceed along an ordered path where you will be “better” when you reach the end of it. Grief is a whole process of learning to live with the loss and all the losses that accompany a death, and many forms of expression and behaviour patterns are acceptable reactions to the loss. Very simply it is the process of:
Accepting the reality
Feelings of shock, numbness, an unreal feeling, feeling as though this is happening to someone else.
Experiencing the emotional pain
As the shock wears off you may find you are unprepared for the intensity of your feelings. Feelings of intense sadness, anger, anxiety, confusion, depression, resentment and many more. Physical feelings are also common such as loss of appetite, sleeplessness, over sleeping, headaches, backaches, tummy upsets and many others. All our energy is invested in coping with the roller-coaster ride of emotions and feelings – it is hard work adjusting to an environment without that person – Learning to live without that beloved person in your life, going out socially on your own, doing all the tasks that were normally shared, finding a way to fill the void the loss has left. This is where a grief support group can be so helpful as you share with people who are experiencing similar struggles.
Learning to live with the loss
Learning to live with the loss or at least being at peace with it and finding ways of reinvesting in life, still with a loving connection to the person who has died. Grief is not always present, but also never completely gone.
Grief is Hard Work
Grief is hard work and requires adjusting to our changed circumstances and accepting the reality of the loss and to life without the person you loved. Talk about them, talk about the life you had, as much as you need to, and you will need to be able to do this many times. Grief will come and go at different times with varying intensity, sometimes overwhelming you with a wave of intense feelings. Grief involves many changes in your life that you must learn to cope with as well as dealing with the pain of the death of the person you love. All of us need time to adjust to talking about these changes, about how we feel, about the person who has died, about the meaning of your relationship. You slowly make the adjustments to live with your changed relationship. You learn to live without this beloved person, to try to build a new identity and world for yourself. Grief is such hard work that you can be unprepared for the intensity of your reactions. Accept them all and express them as often as you need to, working towards healing.
Some of the effects of grief
There are many effects of grief; physical, spiritual and emotional, you may experience some of these or some not even mentioned here, that is normal.
Anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, relief, loneliness, sadness, depression, numbness, fatigue, sensitivity to noise and smell, dry mouth, weight gain/loss, tummy upsets, sleep disturbances, disbelief, confusion, absent-mindedness, lack of concentration, hallucinations, questioning of your faith, searching for meaning.