Updated: Oct 5, 2019
By: Zoë Parry, Psychologist
Grief is something we will all experience at some point, yet it is rarely discussed openly.
Grief can be related to a range of losses in our life and some of them may seem surprising. From the understandable sadness after the death of a family member or friend, to the significant sense of loss some experience after retiring from the workforce. Some of the triggers of grief that our community tends not to commonly acknowledge include miscarriage, the death of a pet, marital separation, and workplace redundancy. Grief affects us emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually. These can result in changes in our capacity to manage tasks at work and home.
Grief does not follow a set pattern. People do not progress through a series of neat steps or stages. Grieving is a uniquely individual process and is influenced by many factors, including the meaning or importance of the lost relationship or activity in our lives, the beliefs about death, sadness or grief held by our family or origin, and our own cultural or spiritual beliefs.
Whilst some of people may look like they are going about “business as usual” after a significant loss, they are processing it in their own way and may still be struggling or suffering.
There are things you can do to help yourself adjust to your loss, including:
· Do things that you enjoy, even if you don’t really feel like it.
· Accept support from people around you – this may take the form of meals they make for you, picking the kids up from school/sports, getting some shopping for you, or walking your dog with you.
· Make some changes to decrease your stress levels – you may need to adjust your workload at home or work.
· Take time to grieve. It can help to set aside time to journal, reflect, pray or meditate as a way of dealing with your loss.
· Reach out and be honest. Your GP, psychologist or friends/family can be a great source of support if you let them know how you’re really going.
· Take care of yourself. Grief can be a very physically draining experience and it is important to eat regularly, sleep well and maintain some physical activity.
· Maintain contact with people you care about, even though you may feel like withdrawing and being alone.
· Remember – some people just don’t “get it”. Seek support from the people who you believe are helpful to you and who allow you to experience your grief in a healthy way. You may be surprised to find out who is most supportive of you during this difficult time.
· Allow yourself to take a break from grieving at times. It’s ok and actually healthy to still do enjoyable things, spend time with people, smile and even laugh.
Grief can be an intense and prolonged experience. Some people start to wonder if they (or someone they care about) are experiencing depression rather than grief. Depression and grief have similarities, including sleep disturbance, appetite changes and feelings of sadness. However, depression generally involves more intense and persistent sadness, often alongside feelings of despair and hopelessness. Another symptom of depression is difficulty experiencing enjoyment or pleasure. Your GP or psychologist can help assess your symptoms and suggest appropriate treatment if needed.
Whilst there is no exact timeframe for typical or healthy grief, it generally gets more manageable over time, as we adjust to our loss and re-engage with other parts of our life. If you are concerned that yours or someone else’s grief is not easing as the months go by, it may help to check in with a GP or psychologist to discuss your concerns.