Dealing with Grief and Loss

When people die, they often leave friends and loved ones behind to mourn their passing. This is a very difficult time regardless of the person's age or gender. Whether the death is an expected one or wholly unexpected, a person must contend with a range of emotions. These emotions may swing from sorrow to a sense of abandonment and eventually to anger. Some people may appear more affected by their state of grief, while others may simply respond in a different manner. The differences in how people grieve are normal as there are no rules when it comes to how to grieve. There are, however, ways for people to understand what they are going through and to manage their emotions during this time.

Understanding Grief

When dealing with grief it is important to understand exactly what it is. It is typically defined as a deep, overwhelming sorrow or anguish over the death of another person. Grief may also be the result of the death of a pet, job loss, or even from leaving a comfortable or familiar situation. The manner in which a person grieves is dependent on a factor such as his or her upbringing and life experiences. In understanding grief, people must also understand that there are many myths associated with it. Because some people believe these myths are truth, it is important for people to recognize them for what they are.

The Stages of Grief

When a person grieves he or she goes through several different stages. The stages are denial and isolation, feelings of anger, depression, and eventually acceptance. While these are natural stages, people may experience them in random order, and some people may not experience every stage. If a person does not experience all of the stages, it should not be seen as a sign that he or she has not healed or is unable to move beyond grief.

Recognizing the Symptoms Associated with Grief

There is no one universal sign of grief that can encompass every man, woman, and child. Although people grieve in various different ways, there are some symptoms that commonly indicate that an individual is affected by feelings of grief. A person may suffer physical symptoms such as nausea, weight loss or gain, or insomnia. Some people may become overwrought with fear and anxiousness about death or being alone. An individual who never suffered from panic attacks may suddenly have them regularly. Guilt over time lost, things said or left unsaid, or even guilt over feelings of relief, are also symptomatic of grief. Other recognizable signs include anger at the person who has died, God, or oneself; disbelief, and sadness.

Seeking Support

A person does not need to cope with grief by his or herself. There are a number of ways that an individual can seek help and begin the healing process. One of these ways is to turn to accept the support of others. Support comes in different forms, which often makes it more palatable for people. For some, the support from family and friends is the best way to heal. Family and friends are able to help immediately and can offer support that is both emotional and functional. Other people may choose to seek the support from people who are not a part of their immediate social circle. This type of support may come from bereavement support groups or from grief counselors. Support groups allow people to talk with others who are experiencing the same or similar emotions and losses. People in support groups offer non-judgemental support and are an option for people who feel they are unable to talk or garner comfort from friends or family. A grief counselor is a professional who can help a person work through feelings of grief or other related symptoms. This is a good choice for people who feel that they are unable to overcome their feelings of sorrow or who feel overwhelmed by them. Talking to a spiritual counselor or clergy member is another option for people who feel the most comfort in their faith.

Caring for Oneself During Times of Grief

During times of grief people often do not think of their own well-being. Following the death of a loved one, the stress associated with that event can have a negative toll on the body. It can cause elevated blood pressure, an inability to sleep, and it often reduces a person's desire to eat. The combination of these things can have a negative effect on a person's health if he or she is not careful. Exercise, eating healthy foods regularly, and sleeping at night are the best ways to remain healthy and strong both physically and mentally. It is also important to avoid alcohol and drug usage as a way to alleviate emotional pain. A person who is grieving should also avoid holding in their emotions or thoughts about the death. Keeping a journal may help work through emotions of sorrow or anger or becoming involved in a project that allows him or her to reflect on the person that has been lost may also help. This could be donating to a cause that is associated with that individual or organizing photos of him or her. A person should also never try to hold back his or her feelings of grief because of others. No one can tell a person when he or she should stop grieving or feeling sorrow.

Complicated Grief, Depression, and Getting Help

For some people, feelings of grief and sorrow do not lessen over time. These feelings may begin to affect his or her ability to work, socialize with friends, or have relationships. When a person is intensely affected by grief long after a person has died, he or she may be experiencing what is known as complicated grief. Symptoms of this form of grief include, but are not limited to, denial that the death has occurred, a sense that life has no meaning, an overwhelming longing for one's deceased loved one, or avoidance of anything that reminds him or her of the person who has died. A person may also slip into clinical depression. Depression is very similar to complicated grief except feelings of despair are more constant with depression. A depressed person may also entertain thoughts of depression, feel worthless and lack hope, and seem lethargic in both speech and the way his or her body functions. A person who is depressed is often unable to function and perform day-to-day tasks such as go to work or attend school. People who are suffering from either complicated grief or depression must be seen by a professional therapist or a counselor. If left untreated, he or she may injure themselves or develop health problems from their inability to care for themselves properly.

Grieving Sources for Kids & Teens

The National Center for Grieving Children and Families - How to Help a Grieving Child

National Alliance for Grieving Children

When Families Grieve - Countering Sorrow and Sadness with Talk, Time...and Love

Teen and Young Adult Grief

Children's Grief Education Association Navigating Children's Grief

Helping Children Cope with Loss, Death, and Grief - Tips for Teachers and Parents (PDF)

Rainbows

Traumatic Grief

Frequently Asked Questions About Loss and Child Grieving

Dealing with Death, Let it Go, Let it Out

Grieving Sources for Adults

Coping with Grief and Loss - Understanding the Grieving Process

Allina Health Grief Resources

Resources for Grieving

Grief Share

Grief and Loss - When Someone Close Dies

Grief: Helping Older Adults with Grief

Bereaved Parents of the USA – For the Newly Bereaved

GriefNet.org

Hospice Foundation of America – Understanding Grief Video

Grieving a Loss

Miscellaneous Sources

Grief: Loss of a Loved One

WebMD: Coping with Grief

Grief – Where to Get Help

Is it Possible to Grieve the Death of a Loved One Without Crying?

Psych Basics – Grief

Grief, Loss, and Bereavement

Self-Help: Handling Grief

Complicated Grief

Coping with Grief and Loss (PDF)

Overview of Grief

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