Some ideas for dealing with loss and feelings of grief.
Loss is probably one of the most universal of human experiences. At some stage in our lives we will all loose something or someone that we care deeply about. Despite that, grief is one of the hardest things to talk about and one of the things that people find most difficult to move through. Many people find that they struggle with how to manage during those very difficult times, or whether they are grieving in the “right” way, and how to speak to other people about it. Here are some ideas on things that can be helpful.
- Try to acknowledge and allow your feelings to be present.
Many times, people try to fight or deny their feelings because they are too difficult or they think that they are the wrong ones. Feelings such as sadness, fear, emptiness, anger, anxiety and even relief are common when we have lost something. It is important to remember that all of our feelings are valid and to allow ourselves to experience them.
- Find some ways of making these feelings a little bit easier.
Using your senses and your breath can be a really good way of making some of these really big and difficult feelings more manageable when they feel overwhelming. Focusing on something that you can see, touch, hear, smell or taste, or using a few deep, slow breaths and feeling your feet on the floor can also be really helpful. Making a list of things that you find soothing can be helpful so that you don’t have to remember them each time you need them (e.g. A cup of tea, a long shower, a piece of music or a special treat). If you are feeling really overwhelmed then using some cold water or ice on your skin can help you to feel calmer, alternatively doing some brief intense exercise can help to discharge built up tension or anxiety.
- Try to talk about how you are feeling.
It can be difficult to explain how we feel after a loss as there can be many competing emotions and we may not understand exactly what it is we are feeling. Or we might think that we don’t want to burden those around us with our difficulties. However, finding someone that we feel safe around and letting them know what is going on for us can really help to ease the weight of it, help us feel connected and supported, and that we are not alone or “going crazy”. It can also help to prevent our feelings spilling out in ways that we might regret later – lashing out, getting angry or shutting down. If you are finding it difficult to find someone to speak to openly amoung your family or friends contacting a professional or helpline can be helpful. This is particularly important if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings.
- Let people know what you need.
One of the biggest difficulties for people is to feel confident and comfortable in offering the support that is needed, or knowing what to say and what not to say. People often worry about doing the wrong thing and so end up staying away instead of feeling awkward. If you can manage it, letting people know what would help you (a hug, a walk, just to listen while you vent, a hand looking after the kids, etc.) can help other people be more aware and more comfortable in supporting you.
- Try to look after yourself too.
It is ok to fall in a heap after a loss and to only eat instant noodles for a week. However, when you feel ready, trying to be mindful of getting back into a normal sleeping pattern, eating well and managing the use of alcohol or other drugs can be really important in helping you feel better. Getting some exercise, even a walk around the block, can help to clear the head and help your body to feel better. Mindfulness and relaxation exercises can also be very helpful
- Try not to be too hard on yourself.
Some people think that they should be feeling better and back to normal quickly and get impatient with themselves, particularly if they feel that they are going backwards. Try to remember that grief is a process and that we can move back and forth in it for some time. It is ok to have good days and it is ok to have hard days too. Sometimes we feel that we have moved on and are doing well and then something comes up that brings us right back to where we were. It doesn’t mean that you are going to stay there. Just try to be gentle with yourself and care for yourself when you need it.
- Deal with unfinished business.
Grief can be particularly difficult if we had a complicated relationship with the person that we lost and we are carrying guilt or anger about something that happened. Sometimes finding a way to talk to them or write a letter to them can help us to work through these feelings and find more of a sense of peace or acceptance, or to remember some more of the positive parts of our relationships. This can take time and can be scary, so be patient with yourself. If the relationship was particularly difficult or abusive this is even more challenging and sometimes professional support can be important.
- Rituals can be important.
Some people find it very helpful to have a way of continuing to feel connected to the person we have lost. This might be visiting a gravestone or special place, lighting a candle, raising a toast to them on special occasions, or using some of their sayings, can help us to feel connected and that the person still has an active presence in our lives. Continuing to tell stories about the person that we lost is also important, honouring the part that they played in our lives and making them real for those around us.
If you would like to speak to a counsellor or psychologist your GP can be a good place to start. Ask them for a recommendation or referral.
You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you need to speak to someone confidentially.
If you are experiencing a crisis or are at immediate risk call 000.