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“Grief isn’t something you get over; it’s something you go through” – Alan Pedenen

February 2, 2015

It was a difficult 2014, a year framed by grief and incomprehension and a lot to have left one feeling sad, angry, anxious and numb over.

Grief is a natural response to loss. It might be the loss of a loved one, loss of a relationship, something important to you, for example: miscarriage, death of a pet, loss of employment, separation from family and friends, children grieving in divorce, grief when a stranger/ celebrity or public figure dies, terminal illness, a tragic accident with loss of lives or a way of life. Grief is expressed in many ways and it can affect every part of your life. Some common reactions to grief include, but are not limited to: Feeling sad, frequent crying, shock, denial, confusion, exhaustion, anger, feeling guilty, blame, loneliness, withdrawal, physical health problems, hard to concentrate, not enjoying usual activities, relationship problems, increased alcohol/drug use and feelings of hopelessness.

Everyone experiences grief differently. The intensity, duration and reaction will vary for every person. Some people will express their emotions outwardly whilst others will experience their grief more internally. Some people may grieve for weeks and months, while others may describe their grief lasting for years. Through the process of grief however one begins to create new experiences and habits that work around your loss.

Adapted from Swiss Psychiatrist, Kuebler Ross in 1969, her model identifies the five stages of grieving.

The five stages of grief do not necessarily occur in any specific order. One often moves back and forth, the stages, or skips a stage throughout ones grieving and before achieving a more peaceful acceptance of death. Many of us are not afforded the luxury of time required to achieve the final stage of grief (Reference Julie Axelrod)

Most people find that with the support of their family and friends and their own resources, they gradually find ways to learn to live with their loss, and they do not need to seek professional help. For some people, however, circumstances of the death may have been particularly distressing, such as a traumatic or sudden death, or there may be circumstances in their life which make their grief particularly acute or complicated. It is important to get support or seek professional help.

How to help yourself:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  • Talk to friends and family about how you are feeling.
  • Manage stress, lighten your load by asking friends, family members or work colleagues to help you with some chores or commitments.
  • Take care of your physical health. (Eat a healthy diet, exercise and sleep).
  • Relaxation and gentle exercise can be helpful.
  • Talk to your GP.
  • Consider joining a support group.
  • Visit websites such as beyondblue.org.au and lifeline.org.au for more information.
  • A psychologist trained in grief & loss counselling can help you move through the stages of grief, and learn new skills and strategies to deal with and accept your loss whilst moving forward with your life.

How to help someone you know who is experiencing grief:

How to help someone you know who is experiencing grief:

  • Each day can be different for someone who is grieving; take the time to listen and understand what they are going through. Ask how they are feeling.
  • Ask them how you can help. Helping with daily tasks such as a cooking a meal, doing the shopping, going for a walk, or an activity with them can all help someone through their grief. 
  • Look of for signs that they are not coping, that includes signs of suicidal thoughts, self-harm, being stuck in their grief, giving up on life.
  • Encourage them to get professional help if their grief does not seem to be easing over time (GP, Psychologist, Counsellor).

Reference

Axelrod, J. (2006). The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 2, 2015, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/000617
Image credit: https://caregiversconnect.sg/content/five-stages-grief