The experience of grief is often related to the loss of someone special, but there are many more subtle types of grief and loss which aren’t associated with the actual loss of a person. For example, a job promotion may invoke feelings of loss through missing the camaraderie of working within a team.
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Cycles of Grief
There are many theories about grief, and the experience of it is often described as being cyclic – they go through a predictable range of emotions over time until they reach acceptance. However real-life experience of grief is chaotic. Different emotions appear in a roller-coaster fashion, one minute it’s anger, the next it’s sadness, with other feelings appearing out of the blue. Because grief doesn’t follow a pre-defined pattern, people can end up feeling bad about themselves, thinking they’re not experiencing what they ‘should’.
Sadly, many people experience unhelpful judgement and criticism from others about how they’re grieving. They’re told they should be feeling a specific emotion at a set time, so their experience isn’t right. Or they’re told that there are gifts in loss, at a time that they’re not ready to hear it. This sort of ‘help’ can lead to suppressed feelings and someone trying to carry on as if nothing happened – which isn’t healthy.
Permission to Grieve
Breakthroughs in grief often happen when the person gives themselves permission to grieve. They allow themselves time to move through the emotions and reach peace at their own pace. Whilst recovery from grief is often cited as being the goal, some people may never achieve it. Reaching peace with the fact that you’ve changed, and the world has changed is a far healthier outcome.
How to Grieve
It is important to realise that grieving takes time. Being compassionate to yourself and looking after yourself are key factors in healthy grieving. Sleep and eating well are important as well as looking after yourself emotionally and recognising if you need help. Talking can be helpful, and friends and family are usually the starting point; however, it’s important to recognise when this may be unhelpful. Reaching out to somebody outside of your social circle or seeking professional help may be more appropriate.
It is possible to reach a state of acceptance in relation to your loss. Being able to celebrate having been part of someone’s life, or part of a significant situation is a good sign that you’ve reached acceptance. Creating positive memories and feelings towards the person or situation you’ve lost can help you to celebrate them. Helen wears her mum’s wedding ring as it has a warm emotional connection to her mum for her. Jude smiles every time she works in her polytunnel with her late father’s tools whilst remembering the positive bond they shared.
Grieving in a way that is appropriate for you is crucial for your health and wellbeing and there are many ways you can do this. If you’re struggling with grief, contact us and find out how we can help you.