Grief is the natural response to the loss of a significant person or thing from our life and encompasses the thoughts and feelings that are experienced internally. There is no right or wrong way to grieve nor is there an acceptable timeframe for the grieving process.
The intensity of a persons grief, how long it lasts, and their reactions to it will differ from person to person and often people may find themselves behaving in ways which surprise both them and/or others.
Some common reactions include:
- Feeling sad or down
- Frequent crying
- Shock, denial, numbness
- Stress, anxiety, confusion, exhaustion
- Anger, guilt, shame, blame or even relief
- Loneliness, isolation and withdrawal
- Feeling or acting differently to usual
- Physical health problems – headaches, changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
- Not enjoying usual activities and hobbies
- Tension or problems with personal relationships
- Increased alcohol, smoking or drug use
- Feeling hopeless or like you can’t go on
During times of grief and loss the support of family and friends is an invaluable resource. Encourage the bereaved to express these emotions. Give them the opportunity to talk, allow them to cry and, when the conversation reveals some happy memories, don’t be afraid to laugh.
Helping a person in grief
For those who are supporting a person who is going through the grieving process it can also be a difficult time. Many people do not know what to say or how to help. Below are some suggestions which may help.
- Let them know you care – acknowledge that their loss is important.
- Let them know how you feel – even if you don’t know what to say or do, but that you can be there for them.
- Listen – simply being available to hear their story when they are ready to talk can help.
- Ask them how you can help – don’t assume what they will need, but do offer help.
- Let them know it’s ok to share their grief –encourage them to not feel alone.
- Keep in contact – be available, check-in, keep them included in activities, and give them the option to contact you.
- Be understanding – accept that they may act or say things differently.
- Look out for signs that they are not coping – this includes signs of suicidal thoughts, self-harm, getting stuck in their grief, or giving up on life.
- Get them help –connect them with information, resources or professional help.