Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences a person can go through. The grief and the loss can be overwhelming. It can be hard to know how to cope. For some of us, we need to redefine our very existence, and find ways of moving forward in a sea of unknowns whilst feeling so desperately alone, lost and completely devastated. At times the pain seems so unimaginable, so deep and so truly painful.
As a psychologist, I have listened to the pain of many clients who have shared their grief and loss stories. Having just experienced the loss of a significant person in my life, I have realised that my grief is as complex and unique as theirs. My grief, as is my clients’, was a normal human experience. I realised that I had to learn to redefine myself around my grief and learn to find joy even in my sadness and emptiness in order to find life and living again.
While grief is often associated with the death of a loved one, it can also be triggered by other types of losses, such as the end of a relationship, loss of job or a major life change. Whatever the loss, it is important to remember that everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way to do it. As Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler say, “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
I have learnt that grief is not something to just get over, move forward and leave behind. I cannot rush my grief, sweep it aside and pick it up when I am ready to pick it up at a time that suits me better. I cannot just snap out of my grief either. The most unexpected situations will trigger those unshed tears, that silently run down my cheeks… there is nothing wrong with me in those unexpected moments. I am human, I am feeling, and I am grieving.
There is no time limit to my grief. Part of my grieving journey is walking through that tunnel of sadness and shedding those tears, allowing that grief to wash over me. I know that those tears are the healers.
I know that tears are usually an integral way to process one’s grief and loss, however, crying is not everyone’s natural response to a painful experience – and that is perfectly fine! So to you I say that it is important to remember that avoiding the pain won’t help you to move through your grief; unfortunately, it’s about facing it head-on. So, if crying is not your avenue for releasing your emotions, you still need to process your feelings and work through the grieving process.
Grief is not a race to the finish line. I’ve had to listen to the advice I have given my clients over the years. In short:
- Allow yourself to grieve: It is important to acknowledge and accept your feelings of grief. It is okay to cry, be angry, or feel numb. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with the loss.
- Seek support: It can be helpful to talk to friends, family members, or a therapist about your feelings. Sharing your emotions can provide comfort and help you feel less alone.
- Take care of yourself: Grief can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Be sure to take care of your physical health by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Additionally, engage in activities that bring you joy and help you relax.
- Seek professional help: If you are struggling to cope with grief, consider seeking the help of a therapist. A therapist can provide support and guidance as you navigate the grieving process.
- Honour your loved one: Finding ways to honour the memory of your loved one can be a helpful part of the grieving process. Consider creating a memorial or participating in activities that your loved one enjoyed.