What is grief?
Grief is the normal process of reacting to a loss. Emotional reactions of grief can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. It’s a normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. It’s a feeling of reaching out for someone who’s always been there, to discover that they’re no longer there. It’s one of the hardest processes to go through.
It doesn’t always mean the loss of a loved one, it can be a breakup or a divorce, a job loss or a terminal illness diagnosis, these are all types of grief.
The feeling of grief and loss can be so hard to deal with at any moment in time, but when the festive seasons begin, it can be especially hard. When you feel like your whole world has stopped, but the normality of life is all around you. When everyone around you is feeling merry and it’s that time of year that’s filled with joy and celebration, but that special someone is missing and it just doesn’t feel right.
Grief is one of the hardest processes to go through, it’s never easy if your struggling with the loss of a loved one this Christmas just know your not alone. As devastating as it is, people will understand and hopefully make your festive season a little more bearable.
The celebrations and the traditions that carry on through the years that give the holidays so much joy can also be a painful reminder of the person who is no longer there to share it with. Christmas can feel like a burden rather than something you enjoy.
Just remember that you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to and if you want a time out then you’re entitled to it. But while you may feel like hiding away is the best way to pass the time, sometimes surrounding yourself with people who support and understand you are just what you need. Just because your having fun doesn’t mean you don’t miss them, it’s ok to enjoy yourself.
Here a few coping with grief strategies
- Focus on your needs: Listen to yourself, because at this moment in time that’s what matters most. Allow yourself to feel what you need too, it’s ok to cry and express your sadness. Tell those around you how you feel and how they could help, whether that’s just having someone to chat too, distract you or remember the good times you had with that special someone, which may bring a smile to your face. But if you’re not ready, then that’s ok.
- Memory box: Something that always holds a special place in our hearts is memories and they’re always there. So if you feel up to it, maybe creating something like a memory box where you can write down memories you treasure and when it’s the right time you and those around you can read them out together and it’s an item that you can look back at whenever you want too.
- Talk to someone: When grief takes over it can be hard to want to reach out, as you may feel like others don’t understand what your going through, people grieve differently and that’s important to know. But the worst thing to do is keep it all bottled up when you feel like it’s time talk to someone, it doesn’t always have to be family and friends, reach out to a counselor if you’d prefer too. Remind yourself that it’s ok to accept help.
- Self-care: It may sound cliche but it’s true, the best medicine for when you’re feeling the struggles of grief is looking after you and letting yourself heal. Whatever you feel you need to do to recharge yourself, do it. Some self-care includes: having a nice bath, taking a long walk, listening to music, meditation, slowing down, finding ways to feel close to the memory of your loved one, find silence.
- Make a list: Grief can make it really hard to remember things and concentrate on anything and it can often get overwhelming which makes you feel worse. When you have a lot going on in the holidays, make a list, plan and organise and write things on your calendar so that you feel more at ease. For some keeping, busy may be the best coping mechanism but for others, it could just be too much so don’t force yourself if you don’t want too.
Stages of grieving
Grief is also very personal. You may cry, become angry, withdrawn, feel empty. None of these things are unusual or wrong, it’s the process of grieving.
There are five stages of grief:
- Denial: Grief is an overwhelming emotion. At first, it can be hard to accept that the one you love has gone. Denying it gives you the time to gradually absorb the news and begin to process it. As you begin to move out of the denial stage, the emotions you’ve kept locked away will become more intense. You’ll be hit with a lot of sorrow that you’ve denied and that is one of the hardest stages of grief.
- Anger: Denial may be considered a coping mechanism, anger is hiding many of the emotions and pain that you carry. This anger can easily be directed to other people. As anger subsides, you may begin to think more about what’s happening and feel the emotions you’ve pushed aside.
- Bargaining: During the grieving process, you will feel vulnerable, in those moments emotions intensify a lot, it’s not uncommon to look for ways to help you regain control. In the bargaining stage of grief, you may find yourself creating ‘what if’ statements.
- Depression: Depression can feel like the quiet stage of grief. In the early stages of loss, you may be running from your emotions, trying to keep ahead of them. You may choose to isolate yourself as a way of coping. Depression is difficult and messy, it’s overwhelming. You may feel heavy and confused.
- Acceptance: It’s not always a happy or uplifting stage, it doesn’t mean you’ve moved past the grief. It does, mean you’ve now accepted it and have become to understand it. You may feel slightly different in this stage, it’s expected. Look at acceptance as a way of knowing there will be good days but sometimes there will be bad and that’s ok.
The most important thing to know is that it’s ok to grieve and go through the process. But know you always have people who would help you through the process. It’s ok not to be ok and it’s ok to accept whats happened, that’s all part of grieve.