Grief and Loss

Grief - Part of the Human Experience

Everyone will at some point in their lives experience a loss of some kind.  It might be a beloved family member or pet, the loss of a relationship or friendship, the loss of a job, a home, etc.  For as many losses as one might experience, there are also many ways in which people grieve these losses.  

Your emotional reaction to a loss might feel unreal and overwhelming.  Or you might initially feel nothing at all.  Decision making can feel difficult immediately following a loss as your brain attempts to absorb what has happened.  You might feel disorganized, distracted, confused.  You might wonder if you are going crazy.  You are not but it is not unusual to feel that way.  You might want to hide away from the world - disconnecting yourself from the people or things you love.

Grief has a way of just taking over for a while and often this is a process which needs to happen.  We need permission to grieve in whatever way feels right for us and there is absolutely no right or wrong way to do it.  By living just one day at a time and taking things as they come, you will eventually find ways to cope with your grief.

Try Not to Avoid Your Grief

Many people avoid their grief or the extent of their loss by burying themselves in other activities such as work.  They avoid discussing the loss, avoid experiencing their feelings and ultimately hope to pretend that life will just go on as normal.  The difficulty with this approach is that the grief just becomes buried, pushed aside and repressed but ultimately it doesn't really go away.  It might fester beneath the surface and impact you in other ways that you might not be aware of such as in physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches, tension) or by generating feelings of depression.  The wounds feel so deep and so raw that it feels intensely painful to face them but doing exactly that will allow the wound to heal.  By airing it out and confronting your feelings you allow them to be processed, released and healing can begin.

What Can Help?

Here are a few tips on how to begin processing your feelings and talking about your loss:

  • Talk with friends and family when you feel ready and allow them to support you.
  • Try to engage in some physical activity even if this is simply taking a walk around the block.  This allows your brain to think while doing something healthy and productive.
  • Give yourself permission to grieve - SAY - "Whatever I am feeling is o.k., even if I believe my feelings are not o.k."  It is normal to feel anger toward yourself or others at this time.
  • Engage in positive activities to express your grief such as journalling or painting, etc.  Avoid heavy use of drugs, alcohol or other behaviours which might make you feel worse in the long run.
  • Create a memory book - if it is the loss of a loved one, interview friends, family, co-workers about your loved one and fill your book with their comments and photos.
  • Try not to burden yourself with feelings of guilt or regret or get preoccupied with worrying thoughts such as "I wish I had done something differently."  Don't get stuck in the "I should have..." or "Why didn't I..." types of statements as they will generate further negative and hurtful thoughts and behaviours (see article in Anxiety section).  Engaging in self-blame will not change the past.  Rather focus on the positive and good times you had with that person, job, pet, etc., recognize and accept what you learned and commit to changing what you can now.
  • Join a bereavement group (www.bereavementontarionetwork.ca)
  • New growth and positive change often comes as a result of loss.
  • Be kind to yourself!

 

Karen Searle, M.S.W., R.S.W., Psychotherapist
544 George Street North, Peterborough, Ontario
K9H 3S2 ~ 705-875-7442

counsellingcanhelp@gmail.com



 

Photo ~ the Lighthouse in Southhampton on Lake Huron