Grief is our response to a profound loss of some kind. It can involve many emotions and sensations, including sadness, pain, overwhelm, shock, anger, guilt, and many more. The experience of grief can be different for different people, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Whatever you are feeling and experiencing while you are grieving, these feelings are absolutely valid and real.
Grief is usually associated with the loss of a loved one, but can also occur with some other type of loss, such as loss of an important relationship, loss of a cherished dream that you had for yourself, or loss of something else very important to you. No matter what loss you are grieving, you deserve to have your grief acknowledged.
Some common misconceptions about grief:
Misconception: Grief has a specific timeline.
Fact: Different people grieve on different timelines. For some it starts immediately after loss, for others it only starts sinking in later. For some it starts dissipating within months, for others it lasts for many years.
Misconception: Grief has discrete stages that should be worked through in order.
Fact: The process of grief is not linear. Some people go through the stages in "order," others go back and forth between stages. Some people don't experience the "typical" stages of grief at all.
Misconception: You must be strong while grieving a loss.
Fact: You deserve the opportunity to express your true feelings. Expressing your true feelings does not mean that you are weak, but rather it shows great strength and bravery. Also, expressing your emotions benefits the people around you, since it shows them that it's okay for them to experience emotions too.
Misconception: If you don't cry or are not visibly sad, it means you don't care.
Fact: Different people respond to losses differently. Not everyone cries after a loss, and that is okay. This doesn't mean that your grief is any less intense, just that the expressions and experiences of grief vary between people.
Techniques for coping with grief:
1. Talk about the loss, either to yourself or to someone else.
Talking about the loss can help you process what you've been through, and tells your brain that it is okay to be feeling grief. Suppressing your grief won't make it go away, but it prolongs the grieving process and can lead to more severe grief later on. Writing your thoughts in a journal can also help.
2. Plan ahead for anticipated grief triggers.
Anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, or any other event can trigger painful emotions and memories. It can be helpful to plan ahead for these triggers, such as by surrounding yourself with loved ones, finding ways to show remembrance or mark your loss, having an activity to do and a person to contact if the feelings get too intense to bear, or having a meditation or relaxation exercise to try to cope.
3. Join a grief support group.
Meeting with and talking to people who are going through grief can be helpful to remind you that you're not alone and to feel truly heard and understood.
4. If applicable, turn to your faith or spirituality.
For faithful and spiritual people, turning to your faith or spirituality can be helpful for coping. Some people say that this helps them find meaning and purpose.
5. Use distraction.
When the grief is too unbearable and you just need to get through the moment, doing an activity to distract yourself can be helpful. This could look like watching a comforting show, doing something creative, or doing something active. Distraction is a technique that is okay to use short-term, but try to ensure that you're not constantly pushing away your emotions, as this can be harmful.
6. Find a way to honour your loss.
If you've lost a loved one in particular, it can be helpful to do something in their honour, such as planning an event, doing a fundraiser or doing some other activity in remembrance. Some people find that this gives them a purpose and an outlet for their emotions, and is a constructive way to acknowledge the loss.
7. Seek professional support.
If feasible, we encourage you to seek support from a mental health professional so that you can learn to cope with your grief and gain support. Grief can be very intense and painful, and you deserve to have guidance in living with it. Visit the Resources page of this website (click here) for help finding support.
We leave you with this quote by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:
"The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you'll 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."