Coping with Grief

11Grief is not an illness, but rather a natural and necessary journey that follows the death of someone we love. As such, it deserves our attention and respect, as well as the support of others, if we are to heal. We have listed below support groups who specialise in providing assistance and guidance after the death of a loved one.

The physical, emotional and mental condition brought on by a loss, such as the death of someone you love, is called grief. Grief is our body’s natural ability to heal our emotional injury. Grieving can be and is very difficult to comprehend. A lack of understanding makes it even more challenging. Grief is a personal process characterised in three stages

The first stage is Shock (denial). This begins with the news of the death, but the reality of the death may occur in a few minutes, a few days or even several months later. This phase “protects” the survivor from the emotional impact of the death. A need to stay busy, confusion, an inability to express emotion, inability to function and an overwhelming sense that something is wrong without grasping the reality of the loss are common characteristics of this phase.

The second stage is The Expression of Grief (bargaining, anger, depression) and may last for several days to several years. There are mental, physical and emotional manifestations that may come and go or appear in any combination.

Mental: Preoccupation of the death, how it happened, the person that died. inability to focus, remember or be productive. It can lead to paranoia or inconsistent thoughts. You may even want to make radical changes in all aspects of your life, but it is imperative that you take time to think clearly and not make impulsive decisions that you may later regret.

Physical: Fatigue, weakness, insomnia, weight gain or loss, headaches, the tendency to develop stress-related illnesses, a sense of vulnerability, discomfort with too much activity or stimulation.12

Emotional: Intense sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, depression, loneliness, confusion, helplessness, isolation and guilt. The inability to feel love or give love, compulsive behavior, thinking that you are “crazy” are often felt by those in grief.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you have to realise that they are quite normal and in many ways are a necessary part of the healing process of grief. If you feel, however, that you are not able to handle your grief on your own, you may want to consider professional help.

The third and final stage is Acceptance. You will know when you have reached this stage when you are able to recall memories of your deceased loved one fondly and pleasantly instead of painfully. Once acceptance has been reached, planning for the future becomes more realistic. A new and wiser you will have emerged.

The rate of acceptance often depends on your ability to feel and express your grief openly. Take time out from your usual standards of behavior. Surround yourself with people that you feel comfortable with, tell them how you feel and what you need from them. Feel and express your emotions. It is okay to cry, to laugh, or to be silent. Write things down about your feelings, your wishes, regrets and joys. Give yourself breaks from grieving to rest, have fun and be nurtured, try to make sure that you eat well and sleep, above all, give yourself time.