Coping with Loss and Grief
Sooner or later we are all going to experience a significant loss in our lives. It may be the death of a loved one, the ending of a significant relationship, the loss of a job or career, or perhaps the loss of a special pet. With these losses we generally experience a period of intense emotions; these emotions are collectively called grief. Common emotional reactions while grieving include:
- Disbelief or denial
Grieving is a healthy response to tragedy, loss, and sadness, and it’s important to allow yourself time to process your loss. Grief is an emotion that takes time to deal with, but you can get through it and eventually move on. But, please keep in mind that grieving is an intensely personal experience. There is no right or wrong way to grieve; your emotions are going to be exactly that, your emotions and it’s important not to compare your reactions to anyone else’s or allow others to tell you how you should be feeling.
Writing for the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Edward T. Creagan, offers some excellent suggestions on ways to help deal with the grieving process:
Actively grieve and mourn. Grief is an inner sense of loss, sadness and emptiness. Mourning is how you express those feelings. Both grief and mourning are natural and necessary parts of the healing process after a loss.
Acknowledge your pain. If you don’t face your grief, your wounds might never quite go away. Accept that the pain you’re feeling is part of dealing with grief and moving toward a state of healing and acceptance.
Look to loved ones and others for support. Spending some time alone is fine, but in the long run isolation isn’t a healthy way to deal with grief. Allow loved ones and other close contacts to share in your sorrow or simply be there when you cry.
Don’t make major decisions while grieving. Grief clouds the ability to make sound decisions. If possible, postpone big decisions — such as moving, taking a new job or making major financial changes. If you must make decisions right away, seek the input or guidance of trusted loved ones or other close contacts.
Take care of yourself. Grief consumes a significant amount of energy. Your will to live and ability to follow normal routines might quickly erode. To combat these problems, try to get adequate sleep, eat a healthy diet and include physical activity in your daily routine.
Remember that time helps, but it might not cure. Time has the ability to make that acute, searing pain of loss less intense and to make your red-hot emotions less painful — but your feelings of loss and emptiness might never completely go away. Accepting and embracing your new “normal” might help you reconcile your losses.
Another point to keep in mind is that you might be faced with grief over your loss again and again — sometimes even years later. Feelings of grief might return on the anniversary of your loved one’s death, birthday or other special days throughout the year. These feelings, sometimes called an anniversary reaction, aren’t necessarily a setback in the grieving process. They’re a reflection that your loved one’s life was important to you.
Reminders aren’t just tied to the calendar, though. They can be tied to sights, sounds and smells — and they can ambush you. You might suddenly be flooded with emotions when you drive by the restaurant your partner loved or when you hear your child’s favorite song. Even memorial celebrations for others can trigger the pain of your own loss.
Finally, remember that sometimes a qualified counselor or therapist can help you process your emotions, cope with grief, and finally start to move past it. Getting your grief out in the open is an important first step.