For many, the word “grief” comes with a big, looming assumption: death. Grieving the death of a loved one is a universally painful and emotional journey, one which has inspired my own grief counseling business as well as my book, “What I Wish I’d Known: Finding Your Way Through the Tunnel of Grief.”
What some don’t realize is that grief is not always about death. Grief is about loss, and that loss comes in many forms – death being just one of them. In my years helping my clients through their own journeys, I’ve witnessed grief in all forms, from the loss of a marriage to the loss of a career, loss of stability, loss of health, or even the loss of innocence that comes from abuse or neglect.
Regardless of the type of loss you’ve experienced, your grief is a real. Grief often brings along with it myriad feelings that may be difficult or confusing for you. Some of the most common reactions to loss are:
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation, a desire to be alone or an inability to converse with or reach out to friends and loved ones
- Loss of control of your thoughts and feelings, feeling like you’re “going crazy”
- Difficulty concentrating
- Guilt, remorse or constant anxiety over what you could have done differently
- Anxiety and fear
- Irritability, frustration and anger at yourself, someone else or the situation at hand
- Listlessness, lethargy and general exhaustion
When you’ve experienced loss and you feel any of the above, it’s important to realize that this is a normal reaction to grief. While many are looking for a “quick fix” or a way in which to accelerate the grieving process, it’s important to remember that grief is as unique as the individuals who experience it; it can’t always be rushed, and it’s critical that you’re patient with yourself as some days will inevitably be better than others.
Some losses are more predictable than others. For example, you might have anticipated the end of your career for years, to the point that you’ve already planned the retirement party. Or you could walk into work one day to find out you’ve been laid off. People tend to react differently to predictable and unpredictable losses. For some, grieving the loss in advance can help ease the pain. For others, the anxiety of a known loss simply adds to the stress and trauma of the event itself. And for others, it’s difficult to predict reactions until they’re a real and present part of life.
As I express in my book, taking care of yourself physically and emotionally is critical at times of grief – whatever the loss happens to be. Whether you’re grieving the end of your marriage or a critical illness, the way in which you cope with your grief makes a world of difference. Letting yourself feel the grief is critical, because grief needs an outlet – however painful.
When I coach my clients, we focus on ensuring the body and mind are both receiving proper care. This includes:
- Proper nutrition: grief takes its toll on the body, depriving you of energy and strength. Now is the time to eat whole, nutritious foods that will help keep your body strong while you heal.
- Good sleep: Grief and sleeplessness go hand in hand. But your body –and mind—heal during sleep, so all those sleepless hours can really exacerbate your suffering. In my book, I offer many tips for getting the sleep your body and soul need at this difficult time.
- Rest and relaxation: Lethargy can be part of grieving, but allowing yourself to relax does not mean wallowing in bed all day. It means allowing yourself to feel pampered or indulged – getting a massage, reading a good book or listening to the waves crash on the beach.
- Professional help: Sometimes, grief can feel too big to bear. Seeking help from a qualified professional is the best way to begin dealing with your grief in a productive manner.
For more information on grief and loss, visit thegriefgirl.com.