MINDSET: What Is Grief & Loss? | Great Health Guide
MINDSET: What Is Grief & Loss?

MINDSET: What Is Grief & Loss?

‘What Is Grief & Loss?’ by Joanne Evans published in Great Health Guide (Nov 2015). Grief & loss is quite often associated with the loss of a loved one but it could also be associated with other feelings such as a retirement, loss of movement, ability, health or memory. In this article, Joanne discusses how to understand grief & address it.
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MINDSET: What Is Grief & Loss?

written by Joanne Evans

When we think of grief and loss we immediately think of loss of a loved one, but when we look at our lives grief and loss covers a lot more than a death of someone we loved. It could start as early as leaving High School / University – grieving for the world we knew and the loss of our friends, security, and the feeling of confidence in our surroundings. It could be the breakup of a relationship, grieving for the dream you thought you would have, grieving the loss of the person you loved.

Retirement could also be grieving for the loss of self-esteem, confidence, prestige, income, identity, position in society that came with that position and the loss of all of these things. In our senior years we can grieve our loss of movement, ability, health and memory.

As you can see grief and loss covers a range of stages in our lives not just death of a loved one and the symptoms of all of these events are very similar. The symptoms can include some of the following:

  • Depression

  • Becoming isolated and withdrawing from life 

  • Problems with sleeping

  • Constantly tense and agitated, worrying all the time

  • Weight loss / gain, nausea, headaches, aches and pains

  • Poor work performance, problems with concentration

  • Feeling of being lost or overwhelmed, constant crying

  • Increase use of drugs /alcohol

In this article we will concentrate on coping with a death of a loved one, but as you read this you will see a lot of similarities with other losses in life. So now we know the outward signs of grief and loss. What can we do? How can we help ourselves?

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It will help if you understand something about the stages of grief:

1. Acceptance. How many times you do hear someone saying ‘I just can’t believe it’. Once you get to a point where you are no longer fighting the reality of it all, you will start to notice some changes in yourself. At this stage you may become very sad and even depressed that the situation is real. 

2. Work through the pain. Don’t bury the pain, sit with it and accept it. Yes it hurts and it is going to hurt for quite some time. If you need to cry, then cry. If you want to scream, then scream. Remember to breathe, imagine breathing the pain out with each breath. If you bury the pain it will reoccur whether you want it to or not. 

3. Work on adjusting to life without that person. Learn how to do the things that they did. If you now have to handle the finances, learn how to do them. If they did the cooking, learn how to cook. Learn whatever you need to learn.

4. Find a way of changing the relationship you had with that person. They will never leave your heart, death will never take that away. Death cannot take away your memories. Imagine that they are still with you – you just can’t see them as you did before. Talk to them if it makes you feel better. Love doesn’t end with death. Find a place for them in your new life. You don’t have to leave them behind, you don’t have to forget about them, you just move forward taking them in your heart with you. 

It may help to remember that there is no correct way to grieve, there is only your way to grieve. If someone tells you, ‘you should be over it by now’, ignore them, we are individuals and we each grieve differently.  Here are a few more ideas that may help you.

  • If people are treating you differently, it’s because they don’t know what to say, so tell them, or give them permission to talk about your loved one, or you talk about your loved one yourself and that will ease the tension

  • Take the pressure off yourself and breath

  • Some days will be ‘power’ days where you feel, ‘wow I am starting to feel better’ and other days are just going to be breathing days.  Either way it’s OK.

  • Don’t make any drastic decisions until you are feeling OK, there is plenty of time

  • Listen to your body, rest when you need to, cry when you need to

  • The world will go on, whether you want it to or not. It will be hard to believe that you can lose one of the most important people in your world and other people still go about their business. People get up and go to work, argue about stupid things and make a drama about what to cook for dinner.  That’s OK.  Before this, so did you

  • It’s a rollercoaster ride. There will be big ups and big downs, eventually they will occur less frequently and will not appear so big

  • Surround yourself with people who love you and support you

  • Listen to the advice of friends and throw out what you don’t need

  • Do things you love, if there is a hobby you always wanted to do, then do it

  • Look at ways to keep this person’s memory alive, a memorial trophy at their sporting club, a school trophy, a donation to their favourite charity, a tree or 

  • bench at their favourite spot, a scrapbook of their history, memories, photos and journals of how you felt at the time, conversations that you had with them. All these things you can share for generations to come

  • Do some volunteer work, we all feel better helping someone in need and you will get back double what you give.

If you feel you cannot cope during your time of grief, get
support, talk to friends and see  a doctor or a counsellor.
There is plenty of help out there, you don’t have to do this by yourself. If you ever have suicidal thoughts contact Lifeline phone 131 114.

Author of this article:
Joanne Evans has a Diploma in Counselling, Advanced Major studies in Effective Parenting and Child Development, Grief and Loss and just completed Abuse. Joanne is currently studying Understanding Dementia with University of Tasmania. Joanne is a member of ACA and PCA.  Joanne is employed by Lifeline as Telephone Crisis Supporter and has her own practice ‘Finding Serenity’ on the Central Coast of New South Wales.

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