Grief is an emotionally painful response to loss. The more significant the loss, the more intensely grief is experienced. Losses that result in grief include death, divorce, diminishing health, job layoff, relocations, and dissolved relationships, among others. Grief is a process that is different for everyone. Your grief reactions are unique to you, and so is the timeframe within which you experience grief. Respect your grief process and seek support accordingly. Understanding grief can be the first step to working through it.
Stages of Grief
While grief is often conceptualized in stages, there are no laws about how, when, and in what order they may be experienced. Many individuals will move in and out of some of theses stages repeatedly over time.
- Denial: Loss often comes as a shock we are resistant to accept.
- Anger: A common emotion that accompanies loss, we may direct our anger rationally or irrationally at ourselves, at others, at a higher power, or even at a loved one who has passed away. When we don’t feel ready to experience the loss or it cannot be justified in our mind, anger is often the result.
- Bargaining: We may try to make deals with a higher power to try to attain an outcome different than the loss we are experiencing.
- Depression: Grief-related depression includes overwhelming feelings of sadness and emptiness. We may experience loss of motivation, increased fatigue, confusion, and lack of concentration. We may also feel guilt because of our inability to function optimally and care for others during our grieving process.
- Acceptance: This is the stage of recovery in which we begin to find ways to accept our loss and reinvest in other parts of our life. The pain of the loss continues to be present but does not consume us.
Tips for Enduring Personal Loss
- Allow yourself to experience all of your emotions. Don’t judge yourself for having them, and don’t rush them along. Feeling your emotions thoroughly will help you to eventually let them go.
- Be appreciative of others who try to help you in helpful ways. Be honest about what is and is not helpful.
- Take good personal care of yourself during your time of grief. Make efforts to get adequate nutrition, sleep, and exercise, even when it is difficult to do so.
- Experience comfort wherever you can. Try to embrace small gifts like cool breezes and friendly smiles. It’s okay to feel joy and to laugh, even while you grieve.
- Consider expressing your grief creatively, through writing, art, crafts, or other means that are healing for you.
- Know your limits, and expect them to be different while you grieve. Don’t hesitate to take necessary breaks from tasks, feelings, and obligations.
- Learn to meditate and relax your mind.
- Avoid using alcohol or other substances to numb your feelings. This will only prolong your pain.
- Know your triggers and prepare for them. Anniversaries of losses and birthdays of loved ones who have passed away often find us with intensified emotions. This is normal. Secure appropriate support.
- Consider volunteering or finding ways to help others.
- Join a grief support group, either online or in person.
- Be patient. Remember, grief is a process, not an event.
Tips for Helping Someone Who is Grieving
- Make contact and keep in touch. Don’t avoid your grieving loved one.
- Listen patiently and without judgment. Allow and encourage conversations about the loss. Don’t be afraid to use the name of a loved one who has died.
- Be accepting of the full range of emotions expressed. Don’t tell anyone else how they should feel.
- Offer specific help. Suggest bringing a meal or running an errand for your grieving friend. Saying, “let me know if I can do anything to help,” requires input from them, and they may be unable to provide it.
- Provide encouragement and reinforce progress that you notice in your loved one’s recovery.
- Be aware of dates that will be especially difficult for your grieving friend, such as milestones or birthdays. Reach out and offer extra support during those times.
- Try to set a good example of emotional and physical health. Invite your friend to join you for a walk or other healthy activity.
- Encourage your grieving loved one to seek professional help when needed.