Grief word cloud

Dealing with Grief: 5 Real Truths about Losing a Loved One

Grief is something that virtually everyone will have to deal with at some point, and no two people grieve in exactly the same way. There is so much information out there describing what is considered ‘normal’ when it comes to grief – some articles are very clinical while others are too fluffy or spiritual, so many people actually going through grief might not be able to relate to them.

So here we try to outline some real and relatable thoughts and feelings you might have when grieving, and how best to deal with them.

It becomes difficult to relate to your friends

When your world is rocked by the loss of a loved one, it will inevitably change you as a person, change your priorities and change what you consider important in your life. This sudden change in your circumstances can mean that it becomes difficult, at least temporarily, to relate to your friends or for them to relate to you as you.

It is likely that your friends or family have tried to console you after your loss, and it is equally as likely that some of the things they have said have upset you or even made you angry. No one can fully understand what you are going through, so it can often feel like the things they are saying are completely inappropriate.

Try to resist the urge to lash out or get angry. Hard as it might be to remember, your loved ones are only trying to help, even if their efforts are misguided. If it becomes too much to bear, feel free to ask them to leave you alone for a while, but keep in mind that they are acting out of love and care for you and your well-being. And know that this feeling of being a fish out of water will pass and you will feel like yourself again.

Comforting words become bland background noise

Even of your friends are saying all the right things, their kinds words and platitudes can become background noise to you. While you know they do earnestly mean those kind words – that they’re sorry for your loss and they’re there for you – you’ll have heard those words so many times by the time the funeral is over that they begin to wash over you.

You might feel nothing… or suddenly everything

That jaded feeling after the funeral can extend past being tired of platitudes and actually infiltrate your overall mood and emotions. You might for a time feel ‘numb’ or ‘cried out’. This can in-turn cause feelings of guilt. You feel you’re not honouring your deceased loved one if you’re not feeling sad all the time.

But you shouldn’t worry about that – feeling numb or jaded is normal too – it’s just your mind and body’s way of coping with the onslaught of emotions you’ve endured since the death of your loved one. Conversely, you may feel this numbness right after the death, until your mind has time to process the situation, at which time the feelings of grief and sadness begin.

The grieving process is often divided into five stages: disbelief, yearning, anger, depression and acceptance. However, the Yale Bereavement Study found that this is not always the actual progression. Don’t feel as though you have to follow any specific pattern when dealing with your loss. If you are feeling angry, go ahead and feel angry. If you think you may have finally found acceptance, don’t worry if feelings of disbelief come back the next day. It is perfectly normal to fluctuate in your emotions on the matter from day to day.

Just be reassured that whatever you’re feeling is normal for you, and you’ll feel each emotion as your mind and body are ready to feel them.

When you think you’re on your feet, grief can hit again

Don’t listen to anyone (including yourself) who tells you that you should have moved on by now. The grieving process is different for everyone. Instead of worrying about when the sadness will go away, focus on taking care of yourself and your health, both physical and mental.

The healthiest thing you can do is to let the grief in and fully feel it so that your brain can process the myriad emotions going through your head. Pushing it aside because you ‘should’ be over it is not helpful and will only result in more frustration. Don’t worry if you feel like your grief is lasting for too long. A University of California Medical School study found evidence that grief can last for years after a loss.

You may even begin to feel better, only for a bittersweet memory to bring your grief rushing back. Don’t be disheartened if this does happen to you, or feel that you’re back to square one – you’re not. Each second, minute and day you get through is a fantastic achievement. Losing someone never gets easier, but you will gain the strength to keep going.

You don’t even know what ‘back to normal’ is

When you lose someone close to you, it is like you have lost a part of yourself. It changes you at a fundamental level, making it next to impossible to go back to being the person you were before. Rather than trying to get back to ‘normal’, turn your mental efforts towards discovering what your new normal looks like. Your new outlook can eventually bring positive change as your priorities for your own life shift.

Talking about your grief can help

Whatever way grief has affected you, talking to friends and family can be a great way to relieve some of your pain, even if only temporarily.

It can also be helpful to talk to someone independent, like a psychologist who specialises in grief counselling, who can help to put your feelings into perspective and work with you to give you positive coping mechanisms. Grief is an ongoing process, so it can be helpful to have someone there for you who is in it for the long haul – you can make an appointment to talk through your feelings as and when you need to. If you’re struggling with grief you can get in touch with Psychological Health Care – we’re here to help.