Everyone experiences loss; it is part of life. When a loss is painful, you will experience grief – that is a normal reaction. Grief can be particularly strong when someone you care about has died. It might be a spouse, child or other relative, a dear friend or old acquaintance, a neighbor or a coworker, it may also be someone that you do not know but admire. Grief is a natural part of living and knowing more about it can be helpful to you.
Other losses can be painful and cause us to grieve
There are other losses that happen in life besides death that are painful. Loss such as a divorce, ending an important relationship, loss of a job or income, declining health or loss of physical activity that occurs as people get older. When something you are accustomed to is gone from your life, it can be painful. Caring for someone who is seriously ill can also be accompanied by loss, and these losses can be a source of grief. In living your life, things will happen that bring about grief, which is a normal and expected response.
There is no right way to grieve
No two people will respond the same way to a loss. The way you grieve is as unique as your fingerprints. Life will not be exactly the same after a significant loss, but experiencing grief is one of the ways that we heal and adjust to life after loss. Some people may need to spend quiet time alone, reflecting and resting after a loss. Other people may need to stay active and might keep themselves busy, so they do not feel alone. It is okay to do what feels right for you.
Grief has no timetable
Grief lasts as long as it takes to adjust to the changes in your life after your loss. It can be for months, or even years. A person’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and other responses may come and go. It is not uncommon to suddenly feel the intense pain of grief long after you may have felt better for quite some time. Grief has often been described as waves along the seashore, it can wash over you, and then flow away, and then come back again. A song, a place, a smell, or memory may trigger a grief response when you are not expecting it – this is perfectly normal.
Grief can be painful, but you will survive.
Coping with and adjusting to loss is slow, hard work. As difficult as it may sound, it is healing to acknowledge your grief, give it full expression and attention and your distress will ease. While a show of strength at times of significant loss may seem admirable, it does not replace the need that every person has to express grief. It is essential to allow oneself to feel all the emotions that arise, as painful as they may be, and to treat oneself with patience and kindness.
Sometimes additional support is needed.
Losing someone who is important to you can seem overwhelming, and it is perfectly normal to find support to help you deal with a painful loss. If you find yourself unable to get on with the normal tasks of your life, or if you find yourself behaving in ways that might be harmful – like drinking too much or taking unprescribed drugs – or if you want to hurt yourself, that would be the time to reach out for help.
Finding help or support
Many hospice programs offer grief support or they can refer you to another professional for help. Your community hospice can be a good place to start if you are looking for help.