Losing somebody you are close to is possibly the most devastating and painful experience ever. The intensity and unpredictable nature of grief is the part that people are most surprised by. This can feel overwhelming.
People have all sorts of descriptions and analogies for grief and loss, which covers everything from “losing a part of themselves”, to feeling like there is “a hole in their heart”, and “the waves of emotion”.
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison.
The reality is that grief is a natural process. It’s not an illness but it can disrupt your physical and mental health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight. These are normal responses to loss – and the more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be. I remember days where it felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel and that I would never feel happy again. What I didn’t know was that there is no “right/wrong” way to grieve and it’s very much an individual response. Some days you may feel like it’s all too much, and other days you may feel able to continue with some sense of ‘normality’.
Let’s talk ‘feels’
I talk about grief emotions as being on a spectrum. They can include pain, sadness, shock, numbness, anger and everything else in between. There may even be moments of joy and happiness a little further along in the process.
The most common emotions include:
Pain: Feelings of physical and emotional pain following a bereavement can be difficult to make sense of. It can also be frightening and the temptation with pain is to want to get rid of it, avoid it, or push it down. Although it may not feel like it, the intensity of your pain will eventually lessen.
Anger: Cut yourself some slack. Loss can make you feel angry and this is a natural reaction and typical of the grieving process. Your anger is valid and it can be useful to find ways to work through it.
Shock: It may take you time to process what has happened. Being in shock can feel disorientating and some people describe an overwhelming sense of feeling “lost”, or without purpose. You may feel like the world is going on around you. That’s okay. Give yourself whatever time and space you need to allow your loss to sink in.
Numbness: There may be times when you feel nothing at all. Particularly if you are still in shock. It’s okay to feel nothing too – there is no need to force your emotion. If you’re at all concerned, speak to a professional.
Depression: it’s is normal to feel deep sadness and like life holds no meaning after someone dies. You may experience feelings of depression, which is different to symptoms of clinical depression. However, if you start to feel unable to function at all, and/or suicidal please seek professional help immediately.
Guilt: This is so much more common than you think. You may feel you are to blame, as though you didn’t do enough to help, or even prevent your loved one from dying. You may also have experienced a difficult or complex relationship with this person. There are some things you can do to explore this guilt when you’re ready.
What to do
When you’re grieving, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The stress of a major loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you during the difficult days.
Time is not a healer. Healing takes time. There are no timescales or rules for the grieving process. It’s not that you ‘get over’ losing the person who has died, yet gradually you will learn to live with the loss and find your new normal. You need never forget your loved one, but happier days will arrive.
Some people find it difficult to acknowledge their need for support. However, nearly everyone finds at some stage that it helps to talk. This can be to friends, relatives, or to me. I’m here to help.