Grief and Loss and How You Can Cope
It’s safe to say that every one of us has experienced grief and loss at one point or the other in our lives. For me, it has been a part of my life for a while, I lost my dad twice and it haunts me forever. He choked on a sandwich when I was 14 and I was trying to give him CPR whilst trying to get my little sister away from his changing color body. However, he ended up getting cancer and God rest his soul he was the kindest man alive and my hero. So I have experienced the loss of family and suffered PTSD as a result. I have also experienced the loss of my health in several painful ways, I have cancer. It has gotten me thinking about how people cope with grief and loss. I know firsthand that some people tend to believe you should feel or act a certain way. Is there really a right or wrong way to grieve and react to lose?
Let’s find out.
What is Grief?
Grief doesn’t start and stop in when someone you love dies. Grief is the natural response you experience to losing someone or something close to you. Grief often involves a wide range of emotions such as sadness, loneliness, shock, guilt, and so on – we will get to the stages of grief in a bit.
You might experience feelings of grief and loss when you lose your health, a job, a child, get divorced, lose a loved one or pet to death, lose a friend due to separation, or even sell a family home.
Getting overwhelmed by grief and loss is easy (natural) but the hard part is coping in a way that is healthy and healing.
How do you know you are experiencing grief?
The symptoms of grief are often the same for most people. Perhaps you have been trying to rise above the problem and act like it doesn’t hurt. You might be unable to beat the symptoms of grief that will come.
Emotional symptoms often involve things like shock and disbelief. You know that moment when you just can’t believe this happened. You may feel a certain numbness or go straight to denial. Then, there’s sadness. Intense sadness is the number one emotional symptom of grief. It makes you feel lonely, betrayed even, and most people cry a lot to express this. While some may not but they go through the same pain and the feeling of intense sadness.
The other emotional symptoms are guilt, anger, and fear. Several persons feel guilty when they grieve. You may regret the things you didn’t say or do. Or that you survived and the person or thing did not. Anger can be directed at anyone from yourself, to the person who left or died – yes it happens and it’s normal for you to be angry at a dead loved one for leaving you – to the doctors, or anyone your brain can tie to the loss.
Fear can be fear for your own life. When a loss involves death, some people close to the dead person may feel afraid and helpless. You fear how to go on alone or that your own life can end just like that.
Physical symptoms of grief include aches and pains, weight loss or gain, nausea, fatigue, and insomnia.
How you can cope with grief and loss?
Coping is quite a challenge when you have had something so deep and painful to happen. How do you ‘cope’ with the death of a husband, wife, brother, sister child, friend, relative, pet, and more? How do you cope with other losses too?
The truth is, it’s always easier said than done. Take it from a person who is not trying to sell you unrealistic possibilities, it can be very hard even when you understand you have to move on. The ways to cope which I would share below may look simple in text, but in action, it can take all your strength and resolve to practice them. I believe the good news is, it’s possible to cope with grief and loss in a healthy way.
1. Don’t believe the myths.
These famous myths about grief include
- You are not sad or sorry if you don’t cry.
- You have to forget your loss to move on
- You must be strong in the face of loss
- The harder you try to ignore the pain, the faster it will go away.
- There is a specific expected time for grieving to end and your life returns to normal.
None of these is true. Cry if you want to, but never feel that tears are the only way to express your pain. You don’t have to be a tough guy or forget the loss either. Neither can you place a timer on when grief should cease.
2. Talk about it
Don’t lock your feelings up inside. Cry if and when you want. Talk to others about how you feel, how great the person was and what they meant to you, and how scared you are to move forward. Just find healthy ways to express yourself.
3. Acknowledge how you feel
Denial can make you believe this isn’t real. Some people who know its real hide their reactions for reasons best known to them. A major part of coping is to stand face to face with your feelings. Maybe you never realized you would feel this sad, acknowledge it. The sooner you can accept all the emotions and changes you are experiencing, the better for coping.
4. Preserve memories
Doing something to keep the lost one in your heart forever can help you heal. You can do a tribute or anything significant in their name. Building a memory box is great too. It helps to pull you out of a sad mood faster. Fill the memory box with objects that remind you of the person. These can include pictures, pieces of art, and so on.
5. Find a support group
Your friends or family can be your support group. But if you are open to other options, you can find a public support group that speaks specifically to your situation. For example, there are support groups for parents who have lost a child and so on. A counselor, pastor, or parent might point you in the direction of one in your area.
6. Don’t slip
Depression can easily slip in through grief. Avoid this. Go out and clear your head. Engage in physical activity. Cope as much as you can to prevent slipping into depression or to help you come out of it. Care for yourself physically as well.
Take care of everyone