Grief is the psychological, behavioral, social, and physical response to a loss. There is no correct way to express grief and responses to losing a loved one are an entirely different from person to person. Grief can also be challenging as it can come out of nowhere and you might feel like you lack the tools to overcome it.
Below are some important facts about grief including a guide to the early grieving process that can help you as you go through this journey.
1. Grief is normal
Grief is not a disease. It is a normal response to a significant loss. People may tend to encourage you to “be strong” or “start moving on”, but it is okay to express emotion as a response to the pain you are feeling. Experiencing grief after a significant loss is a normal response.
2. Grief is unavoidable
Grief is a painful feeling to have, yet there is no means to avoid or plan around the feelings of loss. Finding the courage to endure the journey of grief is the first step to overcoming the pain it brings.
3. Grief is proportional to the relationship
Recognizing the significance of your relationship to what has been lost in your life can help you better understand the response to grief. Further, the associations you make with the person, brother, daughter, parent, or friend, can cause different levels, feelings, and changes in your life.
4. Grief is hard work
The response to loss is often called “grief work” due to the physical and mental strain that grief can leave on a person. After a loss you may feel fatigued by the preparations as well as the sheer toll of grief. Do not rush yourself into feeling “back to normal” or “strong”, and remove any expectations placed by yourself or others on how you grieve.
5. Grief is unpredictable
Grief, a normal feeling, can express itself in a variety of means in a variety of timelines. There is no schedule or process of grief that organizes itself in a sensical matter. Working through the ebbs and flows of the grieving process is key to working towards reconciling the impact of loss on our lives.
6. There may be “secondary losses”
The loss of an individual usually incurs smaller losses in its wake. Examples of secondary losses could include the loss of self-esteem, housing, or financial stability due to losing your partner. Grieving a person may also involve grieving the loss of a way of life.
7. Grief generally gets easier to manage
As grief is not an illness or disease, it never truly goes away. Instead, grief may become gradually easier to manage, but may never go away entirely. The waves of grief also may come at different intervals and intensities, so trusting yourself to endure all the emotions and feelings accordingly is important. Like all things, the severity of your initial feelings will pass.
8. Grief work is best in company
It is important to set realistic expectations for your grieving process, and particularly, to allow others to grieve alongside you. Whether that entails speaking with others who loved the deceased or joining a support group of those in similar situations, you can seek support in your grief.
Guide to the early grieving process
The first moments after loss or the first moments of grief can be very distressing times, and you might not know what is happening or how to help yourself. Try to continue doing these important things in the early days of grief to keep your body strong in your time of need:
- Drink plenty of fluids and limit dehydrants like alcohol and caffeine
- Eat 4-6 small meals a day or at least a serving of food every couple of hours. Letting your blood sugar drop will only incur more mood swings and physical effects.
- Continue physical movement. Even going for a walk outside can help with mindfulness and energy levels.
- Rest during the day. Taking breaks and slowing down when your body tells you to is important.
- Seek support in family, friends, and your social circle. If things like meals, childcare, or chores are challenging you, don’t be afraid to ask for support.
- Express your feelings. It is okay to feel sad and to share your feelings of loss with family, or through journaling. There is no shame in feeling pain after a loss and no reason to internalize it.
For further resources regarding grief consider: