Coping With The Loss Of A Loved One

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Understanding Grief: How To Cope With Loss

BY JULIA TOCKAR

There's no right or wrong way to grieve

There’s no right or wrong way to grieve

Losing a loved one is an awful experience. It doesn’t matter whether your loved one was taken without warning, after a period of illness, or at the end of a long life, the loss is devastating. And lonely. Friends and family struggle to know the ‘right’ thing to say and their well-meaning advice can be unhelpful.

The death of a loved one is one is an awful experience. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix but here are a few key tips to keep in mind during this difficult time.

There’s No Right Or Wrong Way To Grieve

Of course there are many similarities in the way people grieve, but everyone grieves differently. Common reactions are extreme sadness, confusion, disbelief, guilt, regret, bitterness, anger, numbness, loneliness, or anxiety – and at times these feelings may seem overwhelming. You may feel lonely, and feel that others don’t understand what you’re going through, and physically you might feel different as well (many people experience difficulty sleeping and eating, lack energy, and experience nausea and headaches more often than usual). All of these feelings will feel intensely unpleasant, but they’re also all part of the normal and natural grieving process.

We All Grieve In Different Ways

Some people grieve with others and want to talk about their loss with family, friends or members of a support group, other people grieve more privately and in less visible ways. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Grieve in the way that you feel that you need to.

Grief Doesn’t Happen In Stages

Many people think there are certain stages you have to pass through (e.g., denial, shock, anger, despair) but evidence suggests you don’t need to pass through these stages. Again, everyone grieves differently and grief doesn’t follow a linear pattern. In fact, it’s more like a roller coaster – two steps forward and one step back.

Grief Takes Time

Some of us take longer than others to feel better (months to years after the loss). You don’t just “get over and move on” from loss and grief is a gradual and ongoing process. Grieving involves adapting to loss and adjusting to the life changes that accompany this. Most people experiencing grief find that the emotional intensity of their grief lessens over time so that they can remember the person they have lost without the debilitating sadness that often accompanies the early stages of grief.

What Can I Do?

Allow yourself space and time to experience your feelings and reflect on memories, whilst also dealing with the practical side of things and any changes that have resulted from the loss. Make sure you take care of yourself (ensure a healthy diet and engage in physical activity) and remember that crying is a normal and healthy part of the grieving process.

Can Counselling Help?

It can be very helpful to seek professional help from someone outside your usual support network, such as a counsellor or psychologist. It may provide you with comfort and allow you to tell your story over and over without worrying that you’re ‘wearing down’ your family and friends. It may also be valuable to take time-out for yourself to grieve and receive support.

Julia is an empathic and compassionate clinical psychologist who uses evidence-based treatments to help her clients create meaningful change. Julia specialises in working with adults with depression, anxiety, trauma, grief and loss. She also works with adults experiencing work stress, anger management, drug and alcohol issues, relationship problems, low self-esteem, and body image issues.


 

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