Coping with Loss
Grief is a journey and each is unique.
What is grief? Working in critical care, I have seen many answers to this question. Grief is defined as a reaction to loss. The way you react to loss can be as unique as each individual. I have had many family members apologize for what they felt was an inappropriate reaction. I always tell them that grief comes out in funny ways and it is all normal.
Some emotions of grief are:
It is also important to remember that loss is not something you will “get over”. It takes time. to get through.
You may have heard of the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These do not always happen in order and you may experience a stage more than once or more than one at a time. You can even skip a stage all together.
Denial is often the first stage. You may feel shock, fear, confusion and numbness. You may avoid talking about the loss or you may avoid people all together.
Anger is the stage where a person may feel irritation, anxiety and frustration. It is normal to be angry at those around the situation and even at the one you’ve lost.
Bargaining is the stage where you struggle to find meaning. You may search for understanding and imagine “what if” situations. Guilt is a common feeling in this stage.
Depression is the stage of grief others around you may notice the most. During this stage you may feel hopeless and helpless. It may help to seek support from a loved one. Speaking with a counselor or your doctor may also help.
Acceptance is the point where you accept loss. You will begin to adjust to daily life without the one you’ve lost.
Loss is a process. Aside from all the stages and the emotions, you can also experience grief in physical ways. You may notice some of the following:
- Aches and pains
- Loss of appetite, weight loss
- Stress-eating, weight gain
- Lack of energy
- Bursts of energy
- Panic attacks
The best advice I can give those experiencing loss is to take care of yourself. Be honest and open to yourself and others about what you need. Do not take on more than you can handle. Set boundaries and make time for yourself. Practice asking for help and saying “yes” when it is offered. Listen to your body and don’t deny what it needs. Find someone to talk to, perhaps a counselor, pastor or friend. It may be helpful to keep a journal. Try to eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise. Pamper yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. Relax often. Avoid alcohol and other substances. Set goals and try to accomplish something daily. Don’t isolate yourself. Seek help if you have thoughts of suicide.
We all grieve in our own ways and grief doesn’t only start when the loved one passes away. I see grief from the beginning of loss which may be an admission or a diagnosis. It can also be the loss of a role, physical abilities or other. Grief is a journey and each is unique.