How to cope with Grief and Loss

Grief and loss is experienced when we lose someone who is important to us (person, pet) or something that is of value to us (relationship, job). It is normal to experience a range of feelings, thoughts, and reactions. This is what is referred to as the ‘Grieving process’ or ‘Mourning.

Although grief is painful and stressful, this is how humans respond to loss. It is therefore natural and necessary. There is no wrong or right way to grieve, and you cannot put time to it.

Ways people respond to grief and loss

  • Some may cry.
  • Emotional swings – may fluctuate from day to day or hour to hour.
  • Confusion – shock and bewilderment at what happened.
  • Numbness – you do not want to believe it; it takes time for the news of death to sink in.
  • Anger – with the people, world, with yourself, with the dead person for abandoning you.
  • Carrying on with life and having fun.
  • Guilt – blaming yourself for the last argument with the deceased, not visiting them, not calling them.
  • Loneliness – feeling like no one else can understand you.
  • Deep sadness – from missing the deceased, their support, company, and love.
  • Depression – inability to concentrate, sleep disturbance and appetite. This feeling is a natural part of mourning.
  • Relief – for yourself or for the deceased that suffering is now over.
  • Triggering memories – painful feelings from earlier losses may be triggered to add to the pain.

With all these reactions, you may feel that they will be around forever but of course they will not.

The change is usually gradual and painful feelings tend to lessen in intensity over time

Most people start to slowly adjust to living without what has been lost and over time they will start feeling less overwhelmed

Betrayal stage of grief and loss

Initially you may be constantly ruminating about the person who has died but overtime you may start to forget them. This can be for a few minutes, then hours and then for days without thinking about them at a time. You then may start feeling like you have betrayed them. This is neither betrayal nor does it mean you love them less. Guilt is often our way of trying to feel more in control of the world. Admitting that we do not have the power can be frightening

People do not stop existing for you when you stop thinking of them

How Grief and loss affects physical health

  • Irritability – you may feel snappy and short fused.
  • Poor concentration – processing powerful emotions can use up your energy and brain power.
  • Poor sleep – you may find sleeping difficult. You may end up sleeping during the day which will mess up your circadian rhythm.
  • Appetite – you may not want to eat at all or want to eat a lot.
  • Tiredness – dealing with a lot of emotions can be tiring, for example arranging the funeral can be exhausting. Allow yourself to feel tired, rest, take time off work or university, you are entitled to it.
  • Anxiety – powerful feelings can lead to panic and anxiety. For example, feeling like you are going crazy or that something terrible might happen. You are not going crazy, this is common.
  • Overthinking – preoccupation with memories and thoughts of the deceased. You might think you see or hear them. You are not going crazy this is common.
  •  Tearfulness – this is a good outlet for tension and emotions, don’t hold it back.
  • Forgetfulness – you may find yourself a bit clumsy dropping or breaking things unintentionally, and not remembering a lot.
  • Feeling physically sick – headaches, back pain, dizziness, chest tightness, digestive problems. All these are part of grieving and are normal. If they persist, please see your GP.

Self-help tips for Grief and loss

  • Talk about your feelings – talk about the deceased whenever you have an opportunity. Share their good memories, pictures. It helps you feel less alone.
  • Exercise – this is an enjoyable way to express anger and frustration.
  • Listen to music – for many people music has the power to get us through tough times. Music can lift your mood, can offer a good distraction, and offer a healthy escape from pain.
  • Trust yourself – follow your feelings and reactions within reason. If you feel like being alone do that. Remind yourself how normal it is the way you are feeling.
  • Be patient with yourself – allow yourself time each day, each hour, each minute. Healing takes time.
  • Eat well – a good diet will positively impact your mood. Bath and shower regularly, get good sleep
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs – blocking feelings out with alcohol and drugs only gives short term relief and only postpones the grieving process.
  • Ask for help – it takes courage to do so but please do it. Speak to your university’s wellbeing department, ask a friend to walk with you to see GP.
  • Journaling – write down your thoughts, reactions, and perceptions. This will give you a glimpse into your thoughts and clarity. It also feels like you are offloading which can be therapeutic.

Professional help for Grief and loss

Contact Cruse Bereavement support: Home – Cruse Bereavement Support.

In the UK, most GPs have a FREE Talking therapies (IAPT) service attached to it – ask to be referred or Google and self-refer.

To find support services in England and Wales Click Here.

Click Here to Enter postcode to find nearest support.

For Leaflets for Self-Help Click Here