The grief we feel following the loss of a loved one can be the greatest hardship we face in our lifetimes. Whether it is a close relative, our partner or the unbearable heartache felt with the loss of a child, bereavement can stop our lives entirely in their tracks, and burden us with a long-lasting tide of complex and difficult emotions.
Culturally, we are not well equipped to talk about or anticipate the experience of grief, making it a subject that we are often inclined to avoid. However it is clear that talking about our bereavement, and giving ourselves permission to go through this process is as natural and normal as any aspect of the human experience.
Our grief might feel all-consuming, and unending, but in time we will emerge from the other side. The powerful love we feel for the important people in our lives that are no longer with us will never diminish, but as the cycle of our grief progresses, we will find that it becomes easier to treasure the memories we hold of that person, rather than feeling only sadness for their departure.
If you are in the grip of grief following the loss of a loved one, there are some steps that you can take to ease your passage through bereavement. There is no magic pill in this scenario, and in fact, we would lose out if there were one: the pain we feel directly reflects the joy and emotion that our loved one brought to our lives. But, showing compassion to ourselves during this period of great suffering can bring us just a little closer to beginning our lives again, ever changed, but moving forward with our loved ones in our heart.
A Full Spectrum Of Emotion
Our emotions can really sideswipe us during periods of grief. We expect to feel sadness, but emotions such as anger and relief rising within us can leave us feeling conflicted, or even guilty. You may feel that you are on a roller coaster that has swept you far from your bearings, but different stages of varying emotions are an absolutely normal part of the process of grieving.
When a loved one has suffered in the last episode of their life – particularly if we were their caregiver in some capacity, a feeling of relief that their suffering is over, and relief that we no longer have to carry the burden of caring for, and worrying about, them is a common experience after loss.
Feelings of anger that our loved one left us behind, or anger emerging because we suffered with them towards the end can be difficult to talk about but are frequently felt in grief. We may feel overwhelmed by guilt that we have experienced emotions that we perceive as wrong, or for things that we did, or didn’t say.
In these cases, it is important to recognise these emotions: we can view it as our minds sorting through the full weight of everything we associate with that person, from the life we shared with them, to the period running up to their death, and what we felt once they were gone. These emotional processes cannot be denied. It is crucial that we offer compassion to ourselves and know that feeling as we do does not make us a bad person, but rather a person experiencing natural reactions to painful experiences that are part of life.
Your Routine Is A Port In A Storm
No matter how awful you feel, try to maintain your routine’s basic elements such as showering, eating nutritious meals, and getting enough sleep. Self-care will anchor you in your grief and allow your body the strength to carry you through this difficult time. If you are struggling to take care of yourself, recruit a friend or family member to remind you to eat each meal. If you are struggling with insomnia, speak with your GP, who will be able to recommend something to help you get to sleep more easily. The better rested you are, the more equipped you will be to process your emotions.
Be Wary Of Rash Decisions
When overwhelmed by grief, we can struggle to see things from a rational perspective. For this reason, it is best to avoid making substantial, life-altering decisions that we might regret later. If faced with choices that will be life-changing, seek advice from those who know you, or see if you can defer the decision to a later date, when you will be thinking more clearly.
Your Process Is Your Own
Others may tell you about their grief experience, in the hope of making you feel better, but the truth is that each person experiences loss in a unique way. The stages of emotion that you will go through, and the duration of your grief are not something that can be defined or limited. Recognise the validity of your own process, and don’t feel the need to force it unless you begin to feel that you may be stuck and experiencing symptoms of longer-term depression. There is great benefit to be found in seeking psychological support in grief, but this choice is a personal one, and it is up to each of us to assess our own emotional process following bereavement.
Reaching Out For Help
Talking about our grief can be an important step in the healing process. Often, family and friends will hesitate before mentioning the one we’ve lost for fear of hurting us, but we can initiate the subject. In all likelihood, the people who care about us will be relieved that they can share our hardship with us, reminisce, and get a sense of what kind of support we need from them. It is important to remember; they may be grieving too.
If you find that you feel isolated and feel that you might need assistance to move through your grief because you are struggling with depression or anxiety, or simply need an outlet for your emotions, there are many support options available. It is paramount that you don’t ignore the sense that something is holding you back.
You might find one-on-one counselling a helpful option, or you may experience relief in working with a support group that specialises in the type of loss you have experienced. Your GP, Church, local hospital or Citizens Advice Bureau will all be able to offer information of local resources for the bereaved. As soon as you reach out for that extra bit of help, you will discover that everyone needs and benefits from a helping hand in times of loss.
Supporting A Bereaved Loved One
It can be difficult to know what to do when watching someone that we love in the depths of grief. It is important to remember that grief is a process, and not something that can be rushed, or quickly fixed. Attempting to find solutions for our bereaved loved ones, before they are ready to heal, can leave them feeling isolated. Instead, we can simply step into the grief of our loved one and remain alongside them through the process.
It is important to remember that the lack of connection we might feel with our bereaved loved one does not reflect on us. They might find it difficult to ask for our support, but a held hand or a heartfelt hug can be a powerful pain reliever. Small gestures, checking in to make sure that our loved one is taking care of themselves, and letting them know that we are here to talk when they are ready, can be far more lifting than we realise. In time, our bereaved loved one’s grief will start to lift, as grief always does.
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