Grief is never linear, you don’t just wake up one day and think ‘Ok, I’m all better now’.
Have you ever experienced grief or loss and had someone say to you “It’s been xxx years, GET OVER IT!”?
Sadly this sort of comment isn’t uncommon. Society has a false sense of what ‘normal’ grieving looks like and as such survivors, victims, families and loved ones are retraumatised over and over. Imagine if you had lost someone and were told to ‘get over it’… or ‘move on’… or ‘you just need to stop!’. Hardly conducive to healing really is it?
In my practice I often see clients who need support with grief …. some have experienced the death of a loved one, and some haven’t. But both describe intense feelings of loss.
The loss of a loved one or maybe the…
- Loss of a house, to a bushfire.
- Loss of a job, to Covid.
- Loss of a relationship, to abuse.
- Loss of financial stability, due to ill health.
These are just a few examples but there are plenty more, so it is important for us to recognise that grieving is not only experienced after the loss of human life. Clearly it runs deeper and wider than that single life experience.
Below you will find the following information;
- What is grief?
- What signs and symptoms can I expect to experience?
- What are the stages of grief?
- How do I move through and beyond it?
- How do I support someone living with grief?
What is grief?
Grief is a natural emotional response resulting from a significant loss in one’s life. It relates specifically to the thoughts, feelings and behaviours connected to this loss. The term ‘grief’ is more frequently used in relation to bereavement but it’s important to understand that not all grief involves the death of a loved one.
What signs and symptoms can I expect to experience?
Signs and symptoms of grief vary from person to person based on many factors including culture, individual personality types, personal resources, belief systems and of course, what the situation is itself. More common symptoms include;
- Feelings of shock and numbness
- Tightness in the chest and airways
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Withdrawal from family, friends and society as a whole
- Inability to concentrate
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Irritability and anger
- Deep feelings of guilt
- Intense and prolonged sadness
- Loss of all hope for the future
What are the stages of grief?
The most important concept to grasp is that grief is not linear. There may be a definable starting point but there isn’t a definable ‘end point’. This means that no one living with grief should hold themselves, or be held by others, to a recovery timeline.
The stages of grief are;
- Denial and isolation – “This can’t be happening” which is a normal response that helps us rationalise intense and overwhelming emotions
- Anger – Reality starts to set in and vulnerability can come through as anger
- Bargaining – Attempts to regain control like “If only I had ….”
- Depression – Worry, sadness, regret and guilt
- Acceptance and meaning making – Feelings of withdrawal, peace and calm
They are also referred to as;
- Shock and numbness
- Yearning and searching
- Despair and disorganisation
- Reorganisation and recovery
Many people will not experience all of these stages and those who do may think they are ‘done’ with a certain stage only to find themselves there again in the future. Grief should be viewed as a process not as a straightforward path to any particular destination. Remember that these stages can also be experienced in any order, not necessarily as listed.
The grieving process involves acute grief immediately after the loss or other traumatic event and integrated grief, the lifelong part of grief where acceptance has been reached and life resumes in a more ‘normal’ way. If a person fails to move from acute grief to integrated grief we describe this period as complicated grief where the raw feelings, even years after the event or incident, fail to subside or go away.
How do I move through and beyond it?
Firstly, it’s about the healing work that is done, not the time that has passed. One person may get support quite soon after their traumatic experience and describe themselves as ‘recovered’ in just a few months or years. Another may never attempt healing work and twenty years later still feel like the trauma happened just yesterday. Grief is personal.
A few things to consider;
- Take the time to acknowledge and sit with the experience and the subsequent grief.
- Validating yourself and your feelings is the first step, no matter what follows.
- As part of any recovery you need to stop and feel your feelings by attending to them all… one after another after another. There is no skipping, no fast tracking and no ‘quick fix’.
- Getting professional support onboard sooner rather than later can allow you to feel safe, heard and supported on your journey. No one has to go it alone.
How do I support someone living with grief?
The best thing you can do if you are supporting someone experiencing grief is to show them compassion. Kindness and empathy go a long way towards helping a person recover.
- Approach them with gentle, heart-centered intentions.
- Never project your attitudes about how you think grief should work, remember this isn’t about you.
- Never assume what they may need or like from you.
- Tread gently and allow them to feel their feelings free of your judgment.
- Remember that if they respond negatively to you, it is their grief talking… they are not a horrible person, they may just need some time and space.
So there you have it…. Grief | Symptoms, Stages And Moving Through It
I really hope this article helps. It’s been a particularly interesting one to write as I reflect on my own experience with grief. If you would like some support on your journey, I’m here for you. Just reach out, I would be happy to help. Sessions with She Counselling are available in office, over the phone, via video conferencing services or at a walk-and-talk location. In some cases, home visits may also be available. You can book an appointment TODAY!
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Until next week…
Yours in better mental health,