GRIEF: THE BASICS
What is Grief?
People often associate grief with the death of a pet or loved one. But, people can experience grief after any important loss in their life.
People may feel grief when they:
- lose a loved one (family member, friend or pet)
- break up with a partner
- move away
- have family members who divorce
- lose a job
- lose an important possession
- are diagnosed with a life-changing or terminal illness or disability
- lose their spirituality
- have something good happen that will mean leaving something behind they enjoyed. For example, moving up to high school can be fun and exciting, but you may also grieve the loss of your old school and teachers.
Grief is natural after a loss, but the way in which people experience grief can look and feel very different. Grief affects people emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Many people start to feel better as time passes, but certain events, holidays or hearing about other peoples’ losses can make these feelings reappear. The most important thing to do when coping with loss is to talk about it.
Common Reactions to Grief
Feelings of grief can be very complicated and not everyone grieves in the same way. Whatever you feel, it is important to know that there is no ‘right’ way to grieve. It is important to let yourself ‘feel’ rather than try to hide from or ignore your feelings or act ‘normal’. Feelings of grief can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster as you experience different emotions. It is normal for one loss to stir up other losses we have had. For example, if your grandmother dies you may find yourself thinking about when your grandfather died or when your pet got lost. Give yourself the space and time to grieve as you will eventually start to feel better as time passes.
Everyone has different feelings, thoughts and reactions to grief, including:
- Physical reactions: Headaches, tiredness, numbness, crying a lot, unable to relax, nausea.
- Emotional reactions: Sad, angry, anxious, lonely, disbelief, despair, guilt, relief.
- Mental reactions: Forgetful, distracted, confused, worried about the health and safety of others, difficulty making decisions, poor memory.
- Behavioural reactions: Changes to sleeping patterns, dreams or nightmares, or to appetite. You might or might not want to go out or be around people. You may also experience unusual emotional reactions or feel weepy.
- Social reactions: Staying away from friends or pretending like nothing has happened because you don’t know what to say or think you need to be seen as strong. Some friends may avoid you because they don’t know what to say or how to help you.
- Spiritual reactions: Have doubts about your faith or beliefs. Blame a higher power for allowing this to happen.