Coping With Grief And Loss
Today is August 25. 3 weeks have passed since the Beirut Explosion that left hundreds dead, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands homeless, and it still hurts. We still haven’t healed; we are still grieving our Beirut, each in their own way.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are healthy ways that you can deal with the grieving process.
What is grief?
Grief is a natural response to loss. It is emotional suffering that you feel when someone or something you love is lost. This pain can sometimes feel overwhelming. You might experience a lot of different emotions, from shock and anger to guilt and sadness. Grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it harder to sleep, eat, or think properly. All of these are normal reactions to loss.
Coping with a loss is a big challenge. Grieving is most associated with the death of a loved one, but all kinds of loss can cause grief, including:
- Divorce or relationship breakup
- Loss of health
- Losing a job
- Loss of financial stability
- A miscarriage
- Death of a pet
- Loss of a dream
- A loved one’s serious illness
- Loss of a friendship
- Loss of safety after trauma
- Selling the family home
Whatever your loss, it’s personal, so never feel ashamed of how you feel. If the person, animal, relationship or situation was important to you, then feeling grief is normal. Whatever the cause, there are healthy ways to cope with your pain and let go. These methods can ease your sadness and help you to come to terms with your loss.
The grieving process
Grieving is a very individual experience. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The way you grieve can depend on many factors, including personality, coping style, life experience, faith, and how significant the loss is.
Grieving takes time. Healing happens gradually and cannot be forced or sped up. There is no normal timetable for grief. Some may feel better in a few weeks, whereas others may need years.
Myths about grieving
- Myth: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it. If you try to ignore your pain or stop yourself from feeling it, you will only make it worse in the long run. If you’re going to heal, you need to face your grief and deal with it.
- Myth: It’s important to be strong in the face of loss. It’s normal to feel sad, frightened, or lonely after a loss. Crying doesn’t make you weak. You don’t have to protect your loved ones by hiding your feelings. In fact, showing your feelings can help them and you.
- Myth: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss. Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it isn’t the only valid response. Not everyone will cry, and those who don’t cry can feel pain as deeply as those who do. They just might have other ways of expressing their feelings.
- Myth: Grieving should last about a year. There is no time frame for grieving. How long grief lasts will be different from person to person.
- Myth: Moving on with your life means forgetting about your loss. Moving on just means that you have accepted your loss. Moving on is not the same as forgetting. You can move on with your life and still keep the memory of someone that you lost.
How to deal with the grieving process
Grieving a loss is an inevitable part of life, but there are ways that you can cope with pain, come to terms with grief, and find a way to move on with your life.
- 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 love you.
- Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.
- Recognise the difference between grief and depression.
The stages of grief
Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the idea of the five stages of grief. These stages were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness, but many people have applied these to other types of negative life changes and losses. The five stages are:
- Denial – This can’t be happening to me.
- Anger – Why is this happening to me? Who’s fault is it?
- Bargaining – Make this not happen and I will…
- Depression – I’m too sad to do anything.
- Acceptance – I’m at peace with what happened.
If you’re experiencing these emotions after a loss, it can help to know that your reaction is normal and that you will heal. Remember that not everyone will go through all these stages. You don’t have to go through every stage in order to heal. If you do experience these stages, you might not experience them in sequential order. Don’t worry about which stage you should be in. There is no typical response to loss. Grieving is an individual experience.
Whether you’re angry, cope by crying, or find peace by celebrating a life with cremation art, your experience is valid, and the way you grieve is natural.
Symptoms of grief
Loss affects people in lots of different ways, but there are some common symptoms that many people will experience. It’s important to remember that almost anything that you experience in the early stages of grief is normal. Common symptoms include:
- Shock and disbelief. Right after a loss, it can be difficult to accept what has happened. You might feel numb, struggle to believe that the loss has actually happened, or even deny the truth of what happened. If you have lost someone you love, you might expect to see them, even though you know they’re gone.
- Sadness. Deep sadness is the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You might experience feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or loneliness. You might cry a lot or feel unstable.
- Guilt. It’s normal to feel regret or guilty about things you did or didn’t do and say. You might feel guilty about the way you feel, such as feeling relieved if a relative dies after a long, difficult illness. After a death, you might feel guilty about not doing something to stop the death from happening, even if there wasn’t anything else that you could have done.
- Anger. Even if nobody was to blame for the loss you have experienced, you might feel angry or resentful. If a loved one has been lost, you might be angry with yourself. You might feel anger towards God or the doctors who cared for the one you lost, or even the person who died for abandoning you.
- Fear. A major loss can trigger a lot of worries and fears. You might feel anxious, helpless, and insecure. Some people might even have panic attacks. A loved one’s death can cause fears about your own health and mortality, and to feel afraid of life without that person, and what you now have to face without them.
Many people think of grief as a mostly emotional thing, but it is actually very common to experience physical problems too, including:
- Lowered immunity
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Aches and pains
Seek support for grief and loss
Grief is painful, and this pain can make you want to withdraw from other people and retreat into your shell. Despite this instinct, having face-to-face support of other people is very important for healing from your loss. Even if you don’t feel comfortable talking about the way you feel under normal circumstances, it’s important to express your feelings when you’re grieving. Sharing your loss with friends and family can make grief easier to cope with, but that doesn’t mean that you have to talk about your grief every time you see your friends and family. Comfort can also happen when you just spend time with those who care about you. It’s important not to isolate yourself.
Grief is the time to turn to the people who love you, even if you’re usually someone is self-sufficient. Instead of avoiding them, draw your friends and other loved ones close. Spend time together in person and accept the help that they offer. It’s common for people to want to to help but not know how, so tell them what it is that you need, whether that’s help arranging a funeral, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to spend time with.
Grief can be a confusing and sometimes frightening thing for a lot of people, especially if they haven’t experienced a similar loss before. This means that some people may feel awkward around you when they’re trying to comfort you in your grief. They may feel unsure how to comfort you and accidentally say or do the wrong things. Don’t use this as an excuse to retreat and avoid social contact. If someone reaches out to you, it’s because they care.
If you’re religious, a lot of comfort can be found in faith. The mourning rituals of your faith can bring comfort. Prayer, meditation, or going to church can all offer solace if spiritual activities are meaningful to you. Speaking to a member of the clergy can also help, especially if a loss has made you question your faith.