Grief and loss

Grief is a natural response to loss and is very personal. Understanding the experience of grief can help you work through it.

What is grief

Grief is a natural response to loss. Loss can be experienced whenever change occurs. For example, the death of someone, when a relationship ends, a pet dying, losing or changing jobs, or moving to a new place.

The emotions associated with the change can be incredibly difficult and seem overwhelming at times - but when we give ourselves time and space to grieve, and allow ourselves to receive support from others, it's possible to learn to live with our loss.

How can loss and grief affect us?

There is no one way to experience loss and grief. Each person will have their own unique experience.

Loss and grief can affect every part of us - our physical body, thoughts, feelings, and behaviour (what we do). Some things you might notice include:

Appetite changes
Sleep changes
Body aches
Fatigue or tiredness
Increased sweating
High blood pressure
Lack of coordination
Difficulty making decisions
Difficulty problem-solving
Impaired judgement
Difficulty concentrating
Difficulty unwinding or relaxing
Increased cautiousness
Negative thoughts
Slowed thinking
Worries about the future 
Difficulty keeping up with day-to-day tasks
Withdrawing from others
Excessive activity

How long does grief last?

Grief is very personal. There's no right or wrong way to grieve - it's a process that's influenced by our personality, life experience, and what the loss means to us.

There's also no set timeline for grief. For some people it may be weeks or months, whereas for others, it may be something experienced across years.

Whatever your process, it's important to be patient and kind to yourself.

How to look after yourself after experiencing a loss

  • Allow yourself to have time to grieve - Understand that grief takes time and is individual. Find ways that work for you to acknowledge and express your feelings - e.g., crying, writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal, talking to others, drawing or painting, dancing, listening to music, etc.
  • It's ok to take time to be by yourself and to be around supportive people.
  • Take care of your physical health - regular eating, sleeping, and exercise.
  • Honour the loss - some ways to remember your loved one could be to journal, collect photos for an album or make a scrapbook, create a website or blog, write poems or music, or create artwork.
  • Avoid making difficult or big decisions when you're feeling intense emotions.
  • Give yourself permission to have 'time out' from the pain (e.g., to relax or do something enjoyable for yourself) - even if you don't really feel like it.
  • Be mindful of using alcohol or other drugs - during tough times, some people can use these to cope with the pain. This might feel helpful at the time, but can lead to other problems in the long-term.
  • Be prepared for triggers - particular dates, locations, anniversaries, or other special occasions may trigger difficult thoughts, memories, and feelings associated with the loss and intensify these in those moments. Where possible, it can be helpful to make plans in advance on how you can cope.
  • If you have spiritual beliefs, consider how these may provide comfort.

Allow yourself to be supported by others

  • Let others know what you need - people will likely want to be there for you but may not know how best to do this. Tell them whether you need someone to sit with you, cry with you, or provide more practical support like a meal or doing the laundry.
  • Support groups can provide a safe space to share grief with others who have similar experiences.
  • Consider accessing professional support to learn healthy ways of coping or working through intense feelings.

How to support someone who is grieving

  • Listen - be available and present to hear their story. Resist the urge to "fix" or make the person feel better. Acknowledging the significance of the loss and associated emotions is an important part of healing.
  • Ask how they need help - "What can I do to help?"
  • Be aware and understanding that they may not seem their usual self or function as they usually do
  • Look out for signs that they are struggling
  • Connect them with support if needed
  • Take care of yourself

Seeking professional support

If you're finding it really hard to cope, or continue to experience difficulties with your feelings, thoughts, or ability to manage everyday life over a prolonged period of time - it's a good idea to seek professional help by visiting your GP or speaking with a counsellor.

Helpful resources

If you'd like more support, come along to one of our workshops or make an appointment for individual counselling.

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