What is the normal way to grieve?

Today I am going to revisit what Grief actually is, what is commonly experienced and when you might need to worry that you need extra help.

Most people think Grief is about crying – a lot. This crying is commonly believed to be worst at the funeral and then the funeral is over, you go home and get on with life. So many people tell me they have had friends and family tell them that the funeral is over so it is time to “get over it”.

If that was all grief was, we maybe would cope better, but it is far more than that.

Grief is total emotional, physical and mental chaos. The emotions are many and varied, ranging from total devastation, through guilt, fear, anger and many more.

If you lose something/someone that matters to you then you will grieve. It is normal to do that.

Grief will affect you totally, in every aspect of your self and your life. Your thoughts, behaviours, belief, feelings, even your health are affected by grief.

In addition, the way you relate to others and your world is also changed.

Grief is a normal part of life and many people will cope with grief without requiring outside help. They will find they have plenty of friends and family who will support them. They will be able to continue through life able to cope with the disruption of grief.

Not all people will experience that. They will experience feelings that are intense and persistent. Some may be so overwhelmed they require specialised help.

These different experiences are all perfectly normal.

What might you expect to experience as a result of Grief?

There is a meditation I do when I run groups for all ages. It involves walking through a forest. All the leaves on the trees are turning into autumn colours. But in this forest, it is not just the yellows, oranges, reds and browns. There are also pinks, purples, blues, greens – any colour that exists. As you walk through this forest your feet crunch the leaves on the ground. In the air around you leaves are falling off the trees and floating past you to the ground. Every so often you catch a leaf. These leaves have words written on them. Words that express your grief experience today.

After the meditation I ask people what the leaves had written on them. The answers are many and varied.

Some of the feelings people see on their leaves are: sadness, anger, anxiety, disbelief, panic, relief, irritability, numbness, hopelessness, devastation, confusion, fear, loneliness. There are many more. People experience a wide range of feelings, and they vary from day to day.

Many people also feel very lost after a grief. They find it hard to focus, to concentrate. Making decisions feels like a herculean task. They cannot find the clarity to decide anything. Many feel stuck in a deep, dark hole with no perceivable way out. Many tell me they feel they are going mad.

Many people report difficulty in sleeping. Other complain of headaches, nausea, aches and pains. Others just say they have no energy left.

Some of these physical symptoms are actually caused by the changes that occur in your brain during the first months of grief. Pathways in your brain change in response to the loss you have experienced. These changes take time and require a lot of energy and focus from the brain. This work of the brain can cause pain as well.

Another source of the physical pain is your feelings. Feelings are expressed in the body and can be experienced as pain, particularly when the feelings are around grief.

The important thing to remember is that grief is very individual. You will grieve in a different way to the next person. Some aspects of the grief will be similar, but there will also be aspects that are totally different.

Some people will be very open about what they are experiencing, other people will keep their feelings to themselves.

Culture, belief systems and gender have an impact on how people grieve. Your previous grief experiences will also influence how you grieve.

It is important to remember that grief never ends. There will always be some pain. In time it will become less, but it will never totally go away. The grief will become part of you as you move on through life. You will be changed by that grief.

Grief is about learning to accept the loss of that important person. It is about learning to live with the changes that have occurred to you and your life. The you that emerges from the experience of loss will be a different person to the one that existed before. You will need to learn also to trust again. Trust the world, trust the lives of other people you love, even trust other people.

Many people want to know when this pain will end, or at least become less. The answer is that there is no time limit to grief. Most people find after a few years they are feelings better able to cope, but there are those who still struggle for longer than that.

It is important during this period to look after yourself and make sure you set aside time to attend to your needs. This is particularly important if you are caring for others, such as children. Don’t become so immersed in their needs that you neglect your own. You are more use to your children if you are coping than if you are not.

It is important to put off making major decisions, such as moving house and giving away belongings, for several months until you feel better able to make decisions you may regret later.

You may wish to journal your experiences, if you can focus enough to do that. Many people tell me they found the journaling experience really helpful.

You may like to create a memorial – some people plant a special plant, install a seat, build a pond in their backyard. Creating a memorial gives you somewhere to visit to honour your loved one.

Other people develop rituals that they find helpful. One particularly popular one is to listen to the music your loved one loved.

Being able to express thoughts and feelings is really important. This doesn’t mean you have to express them to another person, you may prefer to journal them, write a letter, put together a photo album, draw. Never overlook the obvious one of allowing yourself to cry.

Other people find they are very restless and find exercising to be really helpful. Combining this with a reflective setting, such as walking on the beach, cycling along a bush track and sitting on a seat to meditate, can be helpful.

Those who have religious beliefs and practices find these observances helpful.

Other people seek out grief support groups, read books, anything that can help them compare their experience with others.

Be sure to take time out for rest and special care, such as a massage, meditation, retreat.

If sleep is a problem exercise, restricting alcohol and caffeine intake coupled with a good sleep routine can be helpful.

You may find it helpful to talk to a counsellor to find support and explore other ways you can process your grief and manage with life.

Don’t be frightened to seek help if you need it.

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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