A basic guide to dealing with loss and grief

I post frequent blogs about aspects of grief but have not posted a basic guide. I have had requests to do that so that is what I am writing about today.

No matter where you live, no matter who is around you, it is highly unlikely you will get through life without ever losing someone or something that matters to you.

You can lose belongings, your job, your home, your car, friendships, your familiar environment if you move away, your country if you emigrate, a beloved pet, a close friend, a grandparent, a parent, a sibling, a child and so on.

It doesn’t matter how young or old you are. It is hard losing something or someone. It is shocking, hard to believe, sad, a cause for anger, upsetting, painful, disorienting, devastating and many more feelings to numerous to mention.

You will respond to loss differently to another person, even one who has experienced the same loss. You may feel such intense feelings you feel you are going to explode. You may feel numb and empty. You may find it hard to stay still. You may feel you can’t eat. You may find it impossible to sleep at night. You may feel unwell and even get sick. You may feel you are learning to live with it and then something will happen and the feelings will come flooding back.

The most common belief about loss is that it relates to the death of a loved one. That is a major loss, but not the only one. As I already mentioned, there are many other ways we experience loss. For ease of understanding, I will refer to loss as due to death. But you can apply what I write to all the above situations and more.

Losing someone/thing involves a shattering of trust. It may just be a small trust issue or it may involve your whole world. The world you trusted in has just let you down. Someone you have loved is not there any more. You trusted the world to deliver the certainty of each day being as you wanted and the people in it carrying on as always. But that hasn’t happened. Now the world is an uncertain place and that is hard to comprehend.

Alongside this are your feelings. How do you handle all the terrible feelings you are experiencing? You may want to cry. A lot. You may just want to lie in bed and never get up. You may not feel like eating. You may feel guilty if you feel happy, or laugh at something. You may find just the act of living overwhelming. You may find you are focused on keeping on going and worry you are not upset enough.

Remember, everyone grieves differently. You have things you need to do. The world does not stop moving. As Paul Kelly wrote in his song “Feelings of grief”

I go about my day

There’s always somebody to pay

They just won’t go away

Nor will these feelings of grief.

The world does not stop because you are grieving.

How do you manage this grief and loss?

The first thing is to allow yourself to cry. Don’t try to hold all the feelings you have in. If you want to be angry, be angry. If you want to cry, cry. If you want to laugh, laugh. All feelings are valid. Don’t judge yourself for the feelings you have.

Ignore those who tell you that you should be over the grief by now. Or you should ignore the feelings in get on with life. You know your needs. Don’t expect to be miraculously feeling better for a long time.

Allow yourself time to yourself away from the world if that is what you need. Allow yourself to spend time alone if that is what you need.

Be okay smiling and laughing, and even having the occasional moment of light heartedness. This does not mean you are uncaring and forgetting the one you have lost. It is part of life to have different moods.

It is really important you get your chance to say goodbye. Not everyone can go to the funeral of a loved one. Even if you do, it may not be the right time to say goodbye. Find your way to say goodbye in your time.

Allow yourself to share your feelings with a trusted friend or counsellor. It is important you not suppress your feelings and deny them. Do not tell yourself other people need more attention than you do. You need as much attention as everyone else who is grieving. If you are caring for others, it is vital you attend to your grief needs or your ability to care for others will be impaired. You matter and your needs are important.

Be kind and compassionate with yourself. You need time to recover. You need understanding for the times when your emotions impact your behaviour and coping ability. Give yourself some slack.

Avoid taking alcohol or drugs. They may dull your pain, but they also prevent you from feeling it and attending to it properly. They will delay your healing and prolong your pain.

Try not to take out your feelings on others. Try to maintain an awareness of what is happening and give yourself space when you feel overwhelmed.

Never hide your feelings because you think another person will be harmed by seeing you sad. You can have your feelings and be supportive of others. In fact, you will be more supportive if you share your feelings.

I have included the lyrics to the song “Feelings of Grief” by Paul Kelly.

Feelings of grief

Breaking over me

Wave after wave like the rolling sea

These feelings of grief

Time without end

I’m gonna miss you, my friend

How do you suppose this world will ever mend

Or this heart play again?

I go about my day

There’ s always somebody to pay

They just won’t go away

Nor will these feelings of grief

Feelings of grief

Blinding me with tears

Everything that’s dear, piece by piece disappears

And all that remains are these feelings of grief

All I have, feelings of grief


If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

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