Times of emotional crisis and upset often involve some kind of loss.
Traditionally the most common times we will experience loss will be:
Death of a loved one
Loss or death of a pet
End of a friendship
End of a relationship or marriage
End of a stage of your life
Loss of a job.
Onset of life changing medical conditions or injury
However we can also experience the feelings of loss even when the situation involves changes we are looking forward or that will benefit us or those we love:
Children leaving home to start their own lives
Having your first child
Starting a new job
Moving into a care or nursing home
Most people grieve when they lose something or someone important to them. Grieving can feel unbearable, but it’s a necessary process and helps us ultimately to recognise the important people and events in our lives.
The way grief affects you depends on many things, such as the nature of the loss, your upbringing, your beliefs or religion, your age, your relationships, and your physical and mental health. So for example a person having their first child may only experience the loss of how they were able to live their lives before their baby came along with feelings of mild wistfulness. However another person may experience a complex mix of sorrow, guilt, fear and bewilderment at what they see as a loss of their old identity this is particularly true for women for who with pregnancy comes other major life changes such as stopping working.
You can react in many ways to a loss but there are several key stages and emotions that are generally experienced. These often include numbness, shock or surprise, anxiety and helplessness in the initial stages with sadness, anger, bewilderment and guilt often seen later as the period of grief progresses. These are all part and parcel of the normal grieving process. Knowing that these emotions are common can help them seem more normal and It’s very important to understand that given enough time, compassion towards yourself and taking some steps that enable you to care for yourself, that they will pass and you will adjust and recover.
How to help yourself:
- Express your feelings to friends, family or your GP
- If you work – tell your boss or HR team what you are going through.
- Get a simple daily routine and make sure it includes seeing other people.
- Eat a balanced and regular diet.
- Allow yourself to experience your feelings
- Sleep as you need it – grief is a tiring process.
- Avoid using substances such as alcohol, food or drugs to manage your feelings.
- Avoid using too many activities to keep you too busy to experience your normal feelings.
There is now set time for how long the grieving process will take each person. Some people take a lot longer than others to recover but between 6-18 months is not uncommon depending on the nature of the loss. Sometimes putting pressure on yourself to move on and “get over” your loss can contribute to increasing your recovery time and this is because often people who are grieving feel helpless and hopeless in the face of their grief.
Some people might need additional help from a counsellor, therapist or their GP especially if you realise that the intensity of your feelings is not subsiding or if it is actually increasing after 4-6 months after your loss. If any of the following apply to you then seeing your GP and accessing talking therapies can help:
- You don’t feel able to cope with overwhelming emotions or daily life.
- The intense emotions aren’t subsiding.
- You’re not sleeping.
- You have symptoms of depression or anxiety.
- Your relationships are suffering.
- You’re having sexual problems.
- You’re becoming accident-prone.
- You’re caring for someone who isn’t coping well.