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  • Writer's pictureNicole King

Coping with Grief

Updated: Mar 5


Losing someone or something that means so much is an experience that touches every one of us at some point in life. Grief, a natural reaction to profound loss, is a deeply personal journey that can be triggered by various events - the passing of a loved one (including a pet), divorce and family strain, facing illness, job loss, or shattered dreams. It's not just about these specific events but also about the substantial shifts in our lives, be it taking on new caretaking roles or adapting to immense changes in our day to day lives and responsibilities.

 

Everyone grieves differently

While there are many common symptoms of grief, the grief process is unique for everyone. How you experience grief depends on many things, including the relationship you had with the person, your support system, if it was sudden or unexpected. There are no set rules - everyone feels and expresses it differently, so you should not feel pressure to grieve in any particular way. Let it be expressed in the way that feels most natural to you.

 

Common Grief Reactions

Recognising and understanding the many emotions that can surface in the wake of loss is an important step in the healing process. It's natural to feel like we're not quite ourselves, to experience shifts in our sleeping and eating habits. Often, thoughts of our departed loved ones dominate our minds, whether it's pondering their passing or dwelling on the circumstances surrounding their loss. We might lose interest in activities that once brought joy, leaving us feeling indifferent or disconnected. And sometimes, the strain of grief impacts our personal connections and can lead to conflict in relationships . Acknowledging these reactions is an important part of navigating the grieving process with compassion and patience.

 

Grief can bring a host of painful and unpleasant feelings, thoughts, physical sensations and changes in our behaviour and it can make us feel like we’re going crazy.  It’s normal to feel a range of these reactions.

 

Grief symptoms may come in waves, sometimes so strong that you think you’re drowning in emotions. They may be scary, unfamiliar, and keep you awake. In time, many of these symptoms subside but it’s important to remember these are all normal experiences of grief and loss and to take good care of yourself during this time.

 

Sometimes the pain of the loss is not fully felt for some time. The reality can take a while to set in. In the immediate aftermath, there may be a lot to do, things to arrange, a funeral to arrange or participate in, and perhaps legal meetings. Sometimes anxiety sets in around how you will cope without the person you have lost.

 

Tasks and Stages of Grieving

 

“Grief is in two parts. The first in the loss. The second is the remaking of life”

- Annie Roiphe

 

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grieving represents a framework to help understand the emotional process that some may go through when faced with significant loss or trauma: 1) denial; 2) anger; 3) bargaining; 4) depression (sadness); 5) acceptance. These are not necessarily sequential, and individuals may move back and forth between them and not everyone will go through all stages. The intensity and duration of each stage can vary widely.

 

William Worden, a renowned grief and loss expert, outlined a model for grieving which consists of four tasks or "tasks of mourning." Again, these are not linear, and individuals may work on them simultaneously.

 

1) accepting the reality of the loss,

2) acknowledging and working through the pain of grief,

3) finding an enduring connection to the deceased and,

4) adjusting to life without the deceased.

 

It takes a lot of courage and patience to face grief. There are good days and bad days. Be kind to yourself as your adjust to your loss.

 

What can help?

The only cure for grief is action -George Henry Lewes

 

In your own time, you may want to make room to feel your grief, to find ways to express it, to acknowledge and honour your loss. Remember to be kind to yourself and ask for help when you need it – now is the time to lean on others you trust.

 

Don’t dismiss your place of strength, be it a set of beliefs, a traditional  or alternative healing technique. Your place of strength is as individual as your grieving process. You will know what works for you.

 

Below are some more things that might help:


Taking Care of Yourself

Taking good care of yourself is so important. Prioritise your self-care and really be kind to yourself. Take a moment to consider what you value and need in your everyday life. Then consider what you value and need during these difficult times.


Eat well, hydrate, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Try to maintain normal routines if possible. Do not place unrealistic expectations on yourself and avoid making big decisions. Sticking to some of the routines and habits that have served you in the past may help.

 

Balancing Grief

Good grief is a balance of the experience of pain and the hard work of rebuilding your life. It can move between the two modes of loss and restoration - at times, you might be immersed in the pain of missing what has been lost and coming to terms with that. At other times, you might engage in day-to-day activities, problem-solving, and other aspects of life.


Give yourself permission to sit with your feelings of loss; at other times, give yourself permission to get on with the tasks of living. Time out from the pain of grief is a healthy and important part of the hard work – it is achieving that balance.

 

Acknowledge your feelings, allow yourself to grieve

A profound loss can have a deep effect on your psychological and physiological health. Finding ways to express your grief in your way to move through your grief can be vital to healing.

 

Create time and space to experience the range of emotions that come with loss. You may grieve the loss of the relationship you once had with a loved one or the loss of your own personal freedom and routines. Understand that these feelings are normal.

Some people find it helpful to write down what they are thinking and feeling. or use mediums such as music, art, or poetry. Some may prefer talking with a friend, family member or a counsellor about their experience. Again, there is no right or wrong.

 

Honouring your loss

Grief rituals are expressive and symbolic gestures carried out to honour and memorialise a loved one. Seemingly ordinary objects and actions are transformed into sacred symbolic expressions. Do these as often and as long as you need to. Rituals might include planting a memorial tree or flowers in your backyard in your loved one’s honour; lighting a candle used at special times such as anniversaries or occasions, visit a meaningful place/location that he/she loved, or a place that holds special meaning; listen to your loved one’s favourite music playlist; create a memory box or an altar dedicated to your loved one.

 

Ask for and accept help from others

The pain of loss can make you withdraw from others but having the support of other people can be helpful. Let family and friends know what they can do to help. Going through a loss can make you feel like no one around you understands you, which can feel isolating so seeking out support groups or spending time with people who might have gone through something similar Some people also find online forums to be of comfort or you might prefer to speak with a counsellor.

 

Avoid negative coping strategies and avoidance techniques

You may find in the short-term that it is easier to abuse substances such as alcohol and drugs as the experience of intense pain and sadness is reduced temporarily. However, these avoidance strategies can have a negative impact on our emotional and physical well-being. Try to identify some healthy coping strategies such as exercise to bring some relief.

 

Prepare for stressful events

Birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions or certain places may elicit a strong emotional response. Be aware of this and identify what you can do to cope. Even years after a death, you may continue to feel sadness when you are reminded of your loved one’s passing. Try to plan ahead before these dates and ensure you have support on hand if neeedd.


“Grief is the healing process of the heart, soul, and mind. It is the path that returns us to wholeness. It isn’t a matter of if you will grieve; the question is when you will grieve. Until you do, you will suffer from the effects of that unfinished business. - Elisabeth Kübler- Ross and David Kessler


Facing grief is a major task and cannot be fast-tracked, but in time, we may find new strengths we didn’t know we had.  Grieving can be hard. It takes a lot of courage and patience. There are good days and bad days. Take heart, you will find a way through this.


If you need immediate support, contact:


  • Griefline Ph: 1300 845 745 (8am to 8pm)

  • Lifeline Ph: 13 11 14 (available 24/7) 

  • Beyondblue Ph: 1300 22 46 36 (24/7)


Grief Resources:

·      Grief Australia  www.grief.org.au

·      Centre for Loss and Transition (US) www.centerforloss.com

·      National Association for Loss and Grief (NALAG) www.nalag.org.au

·      GriefLine  www.griefline.org.au 


If you would like to book an Initial Counselling Session with Counsellor, Nicole, you can book here.







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