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Understanding Grief

Understanding Grief

Everybody is different and is likely to experience grief differently. It is important not to place expectations on yourself about how you should be feeling at any given moment.

Some people experience delayed grief, with the feelings not fully hitting them until days, weeks, months or years after the loss of their loved one. Others may not experience grief in the way that they expected they would. Many people find that their grief never fully goes away, but over time they are able to heal and the feelings become more manageable.

What is delayed grief?

When a loved one dies, sometimes we do not react to the loss in the way that we, or others, expected us to. There are many reasons why this might happen:

  • We push down feelings of grief because there are things that we need to do e.g. caring for children
  • We are in shock from the loss and are denying the reality of the situation
  • We do not feel comfortable sharing our feelings with those around us
  • We fear the strength of our emotions, so intentionally push them down and distract ourselves by keeping busy

Sometimes, when we suppress feelings of grief, either intentionally or not, other side effects emerge such as migraines, insomnia, anxiety, stomach pains, and feelings of depression. If we do not deal with the emotions surrounding our grief, then they are likely to emerge again at a later date.

It is also important to consider that everyone is different and will experience grief differently. It may not be that a person’s grief is delayed, but simply that they do not experience it in the way we thought they would.

Managing grief

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, it is important to give yourself permission to grieve however you need to.

Reading articles or books on grief can help you realise what you are feeling is normal, and can give you hope that there is a way forward. Finding moments of calm can help quieten your mind and help you sleep. Take a look at the guides, books, podcasts and playlists in our Resources section.

Consider speaking to a counsellor, or drawing on the support of your friends and family. Whoever you feel comfortable talking to, it is important for your healing to allow yourself the opportunity to talk about your loss and your loved one.

Be kind to yourself and make time to look after yourself and do things you enjoy. Having things to look forward to, even just taking a bath with a new essential oil, can help you find small moments of joy and a way to move forward. Loss is a period of intense stress and change, so once the funeral planning has been handled, it can be helpful to your healing to give yourself a break from decision-making.

Supporting someone who is grieving

It will be emotional for them to talk about but it is important that they have the opportunity to talk about the person they have lost. Be an ear to listen to their stories and if you knew the person who died, you could share a memory, or something you will miss about them.

Let them know that you are there if they want to talk about how they are feeling. Something as simple as asking “How are you sleeping?” will let them know that you care. Keep checking in so that your loved one does not feel that they, and the person they lost, has been forgotten.

Remind them that there is light at the end of the tunnel, while still acknowledging their feelings and avoiding judgement. “There’s no set timeline on grief, but it will get better, and I’m here for you”.

People can feel uncomfortable asking for help, so make it easier by asking if you help with something specific such as bringing them dinner, picking up groceries or mowing the lawn. Read more about how to support someone who is grieving.

Find a counsellor to support you

Some people find it easier to open up to an independent professional such as a counsellor rather than their friends and family. Whoever you feel comfortable talking to, it is important for your healing to allow yourself the opportunity to talk about your loss and your loved one. Find counselling services near you.

Find out more about counselling.

It is important not to place expectations on yourself about how you should be feeling at any given moment.