Dealing with Grief

February 21, 2011

Death is the most harrowing experience we go  through. Sooner or later, we will suffer the loss of someone close, be it a friend, a lover or a close relative. In our culture, we speak of and think very little about death.

So we do not learn to cope with bereavement: How we feel, what we do, what is normal, and how to accept it.

Grief hits us immediately after the death of someone we love. It is a unique feeling, but a set of feelings and emotions that requires time to get used to and resolve. This process can not be rushed, as each of us has an 'emotional down time' that must be respected.

Although we are individuals with our own personality characteristics, the way we experience grief is very similar, in most cases.

Talking about grief remains taboo to some extent. Moreover, we always find it difficult to address the issues surrounding the death. But speaking of grief is much more than talking about the physical loss of someone we love.

 It is possible to experience grief at the end of a marriage, a serious illness or after an accident, the consequences of which involve some form of disability. Sooner or later, everyone has to deal with grief and adjust to it.

We know that grief is different from person to person. There is a 'normal' way of mourning. Each person may experience different emotions, often combined, and a kind of devastating turmoil. Emotional states can range from those of denial, sadness, anger, confusion, despair and even guilt.

In some cases, this suffering is reflected in a series of physical manifestations that include sleep problems, changes in appetite, and bodyaches.

The period of mourning may also vary from person to person – in some cases, this process can involve several months – but there are also people who reach the acceptance level and can adapt to it only after a few years.

Dealing with bereavement primarily involves:

  • Being able to express emotions clearly:

It is important to accept that all feelings associated with loss are normal. Some people repress the expression of thoughts and feelings for fear that their relatives and friends will judge them. So if someone asks 'How are you?,' have the courage to say how you feel.

  • Organise your thoughts:

Write regularly (in a notebook, diary, blog, etc.) It is a therapeutic way of dealing with your loss. Focus on recognition and acceptance of feelings. Re-read what you wrote before. You can find that, over time, changes appear. This activity will help you to realise that all emotions are normal, and that their intensity gradually decreases.

  • Facing memories:

Sooner or later comes a confrontation with potentially uncomfortable situations. Escaping activities that make you remember the person you lost will not help. Give yourself the opportunity to accept setbacks. Reviewing photographs, letters or postcards is also part of mourning.

Postpone major decisions or changes: When in pain, it may become difficult to maintain the much-needed insights into decision making, such as moving house, or others involving financial commitments. Instead of postponing decisions, seek advice from family and friends.

  • Healthcare:

Physical health goes hand in hand with emotional health. It is, therefore, essential to have a careful diet, get good sleep and maintain hygiene. In addition, regular physical exercise can relieve anxiety.

  • Seek help:

If you feel stuck with a loss, you may be at risk for depression and you should seek expert help.