By: Emily Kouba
We clinically define grief as “an intense emotional experience triggered by a loss”. That’s technically true, but I think most people who have experienced grief would say it’s a bit more overwhelming than a succinct definition can convey. A more accurate description is more like the “I can’t breathe -how am I going to get through today-I feel sick to my stomach” feeling. If you have lost someone you love, the pain may feel impossible to describe and even harder to navigate.
When we lose someone, we aren’t only mourning the loss of their presence in our lives it may also feel like your entire world has shifted. Nothing feels safe or familiar. The emotional pain of losing a loved one often comes with physical, cognitive, and even behavioral responses. You may notice increased fatigue, forgetfulness, headaches, nausea, and loss of appetite. You may experience all these things, and also have to get through your day-to-day responsibilities. It’s difficult to know where to start and what to do next.
After experiencing a loss, you may wonder if you will ever feel “normal” again and how to grieve the “right way”. However, grieving is not something we have to fix about ourselves. It is a natural and necessary process as we try to make sense of our world after a devastating loss. Unfortunately, grief is not an experience that can be summed up in a “do these 3 things and you’ll feel better after this amount of time” formula. You may be familiar with the “5 stages of Grief” developed by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. These 5 stages- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; helped put a name to common phases of grief and normalized the complicated feelings many experiences. However, common misconceptions about the 5 stages are that they are 1) linear 2) have an end date, and 3) are the “right” way to grieve. You may very well experience all 5 phases developed by Kübler- Ross, but you may also feel anger one day and complete denial the next- and this is okay.
Though there is no one size fits all prescription to take away your grief, you can do things to honor/remember your loved one while managing your grief. You can: ● Write to your loved one. This could be in letter form or even in a journal you keep. ● Create a grieving memory box containing items that remind you of what or who you’re mourning.
- Share your grief with others- reach out to your friends and family
- Plant a tree or garden in their memory
- Permit yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, regardless of how you think you “should” feel
- Allow “grief days” for the days that feel harder than others. Give yourself the grace to take extra care of yourself on those days.
- Talk to a therapist
Know that there is no “wrong way” to grieve. There will be days when distraction is what you need, and that doesn’t mean you are avoiding your grief. It simply means that those emotions are too overwhelming and your brain is protecting itself until you’re ready to feel your feelings. No loss is too small to warrant seeking help. Your friends, family, and even a trained therapist will not be able to take your grief from you- but we can help you hold it.
https://www.webmd.com/special-reports/grief-stages/20190711/how-grief-af fects-your-body-and-mind#:~:text=Complicated%20grief%20increases%20t he%20risk,and%20behaviors%2C%20and%20physical%20illness.