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Grief is a normal reaction to the loss of someone or something meaningful to you. There are many types of loss, such as the death of a loved one, a relationship breakdown, loss of a job, an illness or disability, your children leaving home or the loss of hopes and dreams you had for your future. Just as the reason for grief is very unique to each person, so too is the experience, intensity and duration that it lasts. Grief can feel debilitating and can affect you emotionally, physically and spiritually. It can impact on your relationships and daily functioning. As time passes, most people learn to cope with their grief and move forward in their lives. However, for many the loss will remain a part of them, where they may experience prolonged and or complicated grief that requires professional support.
What are the signs and symptoms of Grief and Loss?
- Feelings of shock after the initial loss. For example, you may feel completely numb, or in a fog or dream-like state. You may find it hard to believe what has happened and struggle to accept your loss.
- Overwhelming sadness and yearning. You may be left feeling empty, lonely and unable to feel joy in the things you used to. You may find yourself frequently crying.
- You may feel angry at yourself or others. For example, you may feel angry that you didn’t see the signs that your relationship was coming to an end. Or, you may be angry with the doctors who could not save your loved one from dying. It is also common to feel angry at the person who is sick or has died.
- Feelings of guilt. For example, some people feel guilty for feeling relieved when a loved one has died after battling a long-term terminal illness. Commonly, people tend to feel regret for what they did or did not do in their relationship. For example, you may wish you spent more time with your loved one while they were alive, or you may regret arguments or distance that grew between you.
- Fear and worry. It is normal to feel scared and worried about many things after losing someone or something important to you. For example, you may fear starting over again by yourself after a separation. Some people also worry about having to see people and “explain” what has happened. After losing a loved one to death, you may fear your future and doubt you will ever feel happy again.
- Your physical health may be affected. You may feel like your whole body aches from the pain you are experiencing. It is common for people to get headaches and feel nauseous. It is also common to experience anxiety symptoms such as tightness in your chest and shortness of breath (especially in the early stages of grief). You may feel exhausted all of the time. Changes in appetite can lead to weight gain or loss.
- Sleep difficulties. For example, you may struggle to fall asleep, because memories are replaying over and over in your mind. You may wake early and struggle to get back to sleep. Or, you may be sleeping too much and find it difficult to get out of bed.
How does Grief and Loss affect me?
- You may feel like you are stuck in a bad dream; that your loss is not really happening. The overwhelming emotions you experience may leave you feeling like you are on a roller coaster that is unpredictable and never-ending.
- You may barely recognise yourself. For example, you may feel like the person you were, died alongside your loved one. The person you are now, may not look, feel or act the same as before. It might feel like you will never be yourself again.
- Your spiritual beliefs may change. You may find yourself questioning your spirituality. For example, you may feel anger towards your God for taking away your loved one.
- Your relationships. You may feel anxious about crying in front of friends. Commonly, you may feel angry that it seems like everyone else is going on with their lives as if nothing has happened. You may also feel angry that you were burdened with such loss unlike your friends around you – you may ask the question “why me?”. The intense feelings you are experiencing may make you feel alone, like no one understands or cares. This can cause you to withdraw and isolate yourself from those around you.
- You may engage in risky behaviours. For example, you may not care about your own life or consequences after a significant loss. You may find yourself driving recklessly, or abusing drugs. You may find yourself drinking excessively to numb the pain.
How can I treat my Grief and Loss?
There are several well-researched treatments that are effective in treating Grief and Loss, including: Self-Care, Social Support, Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT), Focused Family Grief Therapy, and Complicated Grief Treatment.
How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?
We are experienced and trained in treating psychological difficulties like Grief and Loss. If you are experiencing Grief and Loss and would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.