Grief is the natural emotional experience of reacting to a significant loss in our life. It could result from any of a variety of situations like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a significant relationship, the loss of our health, or the loss of our hopes and dreams. Some of the experiences that go along with this feeling could be a deep sense of emptiness and a lack of desire to continue living. Questions like, “What am I?” “What is my life’s purpose?” may cross our mind often. Emotions like these are intense and can shatter our self-belief and confidence.
Loss can be tangible or symbolic. While a tangible loss may be easier to comprehend, a symbolic loss is difficult to fully understand or explain. These are a few examples of symbolic loss: loss of an identity, loss of an idea, loss of a person who is still in our life but no longer plays the same role. E.g. after a separation, a partner may no longer play the role of a spouse, although they can continue playing the role of a parent. When faced with a loss we may say ‘I cannot believe this happened to me, I feel numb’ and this state of mind may remain from a few hours to weeks, months or even years.
Grief can have the following manifestations in our body, mind and behavior:
- Physical: Erratic sleep, erratic appetite and eating patterns, aches and pains, tightness of the chest, fatigue
- Emotional/psychological: A deep sense of sadness and longing, helplessness, depression, guilt, anxiety, anger, feeling of abandonment
- Behavioral: Social withdrawal, excessive crying, avoiding situations that are a reminder of the loss, inactivity, substance abuse, self-harm
The following suggestions can be helpful in recovering from grief:
- Acknowledging the loss: Allowing ourselves the time to acknowledge the loss and accept our feelings of shock or disbelief, while being patient with ourselves.
- Identifying coping mechanisms: Finding our coping mechanism – it can be crying, talking about our feelings, writing, or exercising.
- Finding ways to express inner feelings: Picking up drawing/painting, dance, music or any other art form can all be a useful therapeutic tool in the process of healing. We could do this on our own or join classes depending on our motivation to do these activities.
- Accessing support: It can be very helpful to surround ourselves with supportive people who will listen to us without any judgment, be patient with us, and not pressure us to do anything we are not comfortable with.
It is best to seek the help of a mental health professional if these feelings of numbness and shock continue and are starting to progress into feelings of depression and isolation.
iCALL offers the expertise of trained and qualified counselors who can help with managing the life changes that occur after having experienced a loss.