Experiencing bereavement is unfortunately an inevitable part of life and grief is the normal and natural reaction to this loss. Grief can be a difficult and overwhelming process involving a range of emotions such as guilt, shock, fear, anger, disbelief and despair and also physical reactions such as appetite change, difficulty sleeping, headaches and fatigue. There is no time limit and no right and wrong way to grieve. However, if we try to avoid, force or rush our feelings, it can prolong the grieving process or leave it unresolved which can lead to complications such as depression, anxiety and physical health problems. Whilst we never forget, working through the grief process enables us to heal and find a way to live with the pain.
So how can we work through grief?
As the grief process is individual and unique, some of these options may be useful whereas others may not work for you or feel impossible to do at this time:
- Acknowledge your pain – Experience the range of emotions involved in your grief as they hit you and then give yourself a break from them through distraction or self-care. This alternation allows you to gradually adjust to the bereavement and the ‘new’ normal.
- Take care of yourself – Give yourself a consistent routine to give your life some structure. Create a nice environment for yourself, keep a balanced diet and partake in exercise, rest and relaxation techniques.
- Adjust to the new relationship – Acknowledge that whilst your loved one has died, the relationship can still continue. Attending a funeral or memorial service can help you to acknowledge that the person has died whilst making a playlist of songs that remind you of them or wearing something of theirs can be comforting, give you a sense of an ongoing relationship and help you to appreciate the relationship that you had, even if their death has taken away your future together.
- Accept support– Whilst some people prefer to grieve in private, others find talking to people who care about them helpful. Even if you don’t want to talk, there may be practical tasks that others can help with. Most people want to help, but simply don’t know how so it’s OK to be specific when expressing your needs to others.
- Express your emotions – If you don’t want to talk to others then you can seek out other way to express your emotions. This could be writing down your memories, thoughts or feelings in a journal, making a memory box or writing a tribute or poem.
- Write a letter – There may be things you wished you had said to your loved one of would like to tell them now. Writing a letter expressing your thoughts and feelings and saying goodbye to them can be helpful.
- Examine your guilt – Dwelling on the “what if’s” and “if only’s” is a normal part of grief. Mostly, there isn’t anything you could have done differently, you did the best you could at the time and whatever happened wasn’t intentional on your part. Identify what it is that you feel guilty about, examine the facts objectively and challenge any irrational thoughts. If your guilt is legitimate – take responsibility for this, learn from your mistakes, try to forgive yourself and instead focus on the good things you did for your loved one.
If you would like some help working through your grief, then a support group or individual therapy could be beneficial for you. Some other useful resources are listed below:
Meditation Oasis Podcast – Website and App available providing various guided meditations including a guided meditation for grief: http://www.meditationoasis.com/podcast
Grieving.com – A forum resource for people to connect with others and share stories of loss and healing: http://forums.grieving.com
The Grief Toolbox – Articles, other resources and an online art gallery to help support individuals in the grieving process: http://thegrieftoolbox.com/catalog
Written by Laura Butler – Reg. MBACP (Accred.) Counsellor & Psychotherapist