Are You Struggling to Cope After Grief and Loss?

Proactive Strategies can help you heal and move on

One of life’s biggest challenges is to cope with grief and loss. The permanent and irreversible nature of death makes it one of the most difficult events to accept, come to terms with and move on from. The aftermath of death is often accompanied by a range of volatile and uneasy emotions including shock, denial, anger, guilt, disbelief and depression.

Each one of us is different and it follows that each person’s way of processing his or her emotions is different. In general, grief is an extremely personal experience and individualistic in nature; there are no set rules to follow. Some people may prefer to keep their feelings to themselves while others may like to relieve their feelings by confiding in their friends or loved ones. Yet others may take a longer time to accept the reality of the situation and move on with their lives.

Contrary to popular belief, loss does not only include losing a loved one and it may take varied forms and shapes. For example, loss can also refer to loss of a relationship (in the event of divorce, for instance), loss of other valuable relationships (like a close friendship), loss of money or job loss.

In fact, intense grief can affect our physical and mental health and result in a host of conditions including insomnia, lack of appetite, headaches, anxiety and depression. However, it’s important to understand that grief is not an illness and it cannot be hurried along and healed instantly. As a matter of fact, no two people can grieve and heal in the exact same manner in the same time. While grief usually plays out its natural lifecycle, you can try adopting some positive coping strategies that help you find new meaning, heal and move on with your life.

One of the first coping strategies involves adopting a healthy way to vent your negative emotions like frustration, loneliness, emptiness and sorrow. Those who suppress or repress their feelings tend to suffer for longer periods of time and the negative emotions often morph into more complex psychological issues.  It can help to talk about your feelings to a close friend or find a support group where you can relate to other people who have had similar experiences. Others may prefer reading books on the subject or performing meditation or yoga to relax. The important thing is to choose a strategy that works best for you – because you need to remember that everyone copes with grief and loss differently.

You may often need to redefine some part of your life and yourself after loss. There is likely to be emptiness and you may need to work hard to fill the void with some positive activity. For example, you could consider taking up voluntary work, or playing a sport or making new friends. Travelling works well for many as it can take you out of your day-to-day struggles and help you relax. It’s also a good idea to follow a structured routine (although you may not feel like it initially). You must eat regular, healthy meals and go for your regular exercise and so on. Similarly, it’s also very important to get a good night’s sleep. You may have to re-examine old belief systems and reprogram your thinking or attitude in order to cope. It’s best to take it one day at a time and not force the pace.

Sometimes, it may be a good idea to set aside some ‘me time’ to grieve for the person or situation. This allows you to accept and process your emotions in a consistent and healthy manner. We may not be able to make effective decisions while we are in the throes of grief, so it may be prudent to postpone major decision making.

When it comes down to it, dealing with grief and loss is not easy – in fact a lot of people find that coping with grief and loss is one of the hardest, most challenging things they ever go through. But the important thing to remember is that there’s no right or wrong way – it’s a very personal and individual process that everyone handles differently. If you have some positive, healthy coping strategies in place like those discussed in this article, you’ll find that healing and moving on from your loss will become easier, and you will become a stronger person.

By Greg Redmond, Director Counselling in Melbourne, 2018

This article is for general educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioural problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional