Losing someone you love and care about hurts. After a loved one passes, it is normal to feel certain emotions that can be difficult to contend with. You can never tell how you will react to grief before you actually experience it. Each person’s way of grieving is unique. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Furthermore, grief has no timeline. The grieving process can take weeks, months, or even years. However, there are healthy and unhealthy ways of coping with grief and bereavement.
1. Stages and Symptoms of Grief
You may have heard of the seven stages of grief. During the first stage of grief, it is normal to feel shock. You may find it difficult to accept that the person you’ve lost has really gone. Once the shock subsides, denial will probably be replaced by feelings of pain and guilt. The pain is a normal part of grief, and you should allow yourself to feel it rather than trying to repress your emotions. During this stage of grief, you may start to feel guilty about things you said or did not say to the lost loved one. You may also feel remorseful about things you should or shouldn’t have done. The third stage of grief generally involves feelings of intense anger. You may feel angry at your loved one for leaving you behind, mad at the doctors at the hospital or furious at yourself because you couldn’t stop it from happening. The fourth stage of grief generally comprised a feeling of loneliness and reflection. During this stage, you may become slightly withdrawn. The fifth and sixth stages of grief involve reorganizing your life and addressing practical concerns. The seventh and final stage of grief is acceptance.
Grief also has certain symptoms. For instance, it is normal for a grieving person to feel sad, angry, or lonely. Someone who is grieving may suffer from stress, anxiety and nightmares. It is not unusual to have trouble sleeping while you are grieving, or spend a lot of time replaying your memories of the person you have lost. You may also find that you cry a great deal after the loss of a loved one. Grief can even have physical symptoms such as headache, lack of appetite and stomach upset.
You may not experience the stages of grief in sequence. You could, for example, feel angry again just as you think you are starting to accept what has happened. What’s more, you may feel the symptoms of grief several years after your loved one has passed. For instance, certain sights, smells, sounds or calendar dates may make you feel the pain of grief all over again.
2. Feel It
The pain and challenging emotions that are associated with grief can feel overwhelming. Consequently, some people try to suppress their emotions rather than dealing with them. It is very important that you allow yourself to feel and go through the painful feelings that grief can cause. If you attempt to repress what you are feeling, it will simply reemerge at some point in the future. Hence if you want to cry or shout, you should. You may find that finding a creative outlet for your grief helps. For example, some people express their grief via painting or creative writing.
3. In Your Own Time
Some people seem to think that the entire grieving process should take around twelve months, but this is not necessarily true. It can take some people years to get over the death of a loved one. What’s more, the pain of loss is completely normal and it never goes away completely. You will always miss a loved one who has passed. You should not let friends and family tell you how long you should grieve for. Instead, deal with your grief at your own pace.
4. Get Support
When you lose a loved one, you may feel tempted to isolate yourself from friends and family. This is not a good idea. Instead, defy your instincts and surround yourself with people who care about you. Talk to other people about the way you feel. Let others give you the love and support they offer. You may also find it helpful to join a support group so that you can talk to others who are going through something similar.
5. Treasure the Memories
If you have lost a loved one, do not dwell on the circumstances of their death. Remembering how they suffered, or replaying their last moments in your mind will only make you feel worse. Instead, focus on the good times you shared with your loved one while they were at their best. For instance, you might want to remember all of the hilarious things that happened on a shared vacation, or think about funny expressions your loved one used to come out with.
6. Keep Busy
When you’ve lost someone you love, certain dates will probably be difficult for you. You may find yourself grieving for your loved on at Christmas, or on their birthday. It is wise to make plans that will distract you on such occasions. Plan a vacation or a visit with family so that you have something else to think about other than the loved one who has passed.
Some people suffer from complicated grief, which is sometimes referred to as prolonged grief disorder. Someone suffering from this mental disorder does not begin to heal after a certain amount of time has passed. Instead, the symptoms of grief worsen and become more profound. Complicated grief can make it difficult to function or cope with the demands of everyday living. If you think that you have prolonged grief disorder, it is very important that you seek help. People with complicated grief can benefit from psychotherapy sessions.