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  • Kate Hoyland

Understanding Grief

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

Grief can have an impact on people in many different ways. Here are some of the emotional, physical and other effects you might experience.

Emotions You might experience strong emotions such as sadness, anger or dread, or alternatively feel numb and cut off. Disbelief, guilt, stress, relief, distress, panic and soul-searching are all possible emotions – or you might feel none of these. There is no pattern or right order to the emotions you might feel. Your feelings are usually healthy and appropriate responses, which can lessen over time.

Physical effects Bereavement can seriously test your body’s defences. You might find yourself more prone to physical ill-health or other physical effects. Stomach pain, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance and loss of energy are all common experiences.

Social effects Some people might isolate themselves and find social situations difficult. You may feel that you are the only one going through something which others do not understand. Bereavement can put a strain on family ties and friendships and can feel very lonely. You might find yourself getting angry with people you care about, or anxious in social situations.

Spiritual effects Grief can lead to profound spiritual questioning, a questioning of yourself, your identity and the meaning of life. It is also common to dream about your loved one or feel their presence in some way. Over time, it may be possible to find meaning in grief and a new sense of purpose.

How to take care of yourself after a bereavement.

While there is no formula for recovery, there are things you can do to help look after yourself when you are grieving. Here are some of them.

1. Accept the feelings you have. The feelings you have are an expression of your loss, and it is important to allow yourself to have these feelings and accept them for what they are. Death is often avoided, ignored or denied, and while it may seem helpful at first to detach yourself from your feelings, burying them can lead to physical and emotional illness, and the pain you feel will need to be expressed at some point.

2. Talk to people If you can, find people you can talk to who can understand your loss, and allow you to express your feelings. Social connections can help you in a time of loss.

3. Take care of your physical health Bereavement can lower your immune system and make you prone to illness and other physical effects. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep can help. Be aware of how grief can affect you physically, and take time to connect to your body.

4. Give yourself time Recovery can take months or even years after a major loss. Don’t judge yourself, or let others judge you, if you are still feeling grief after a certain length of time has passed. Remember, too, that life is for the living, and while it may take time to live again, it is possible.

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