We’ve all experienced grief at some point in our lives, but how can we understand it better and come to terms with loss?
When you think of grief you’d be forgiven for thinking that it only applies to the death of a person but that’s not always the case.
Grief, by definition, relates to a deep sense of loss of something that you have a strong connection to.
This could include things like leaving a job you loved, ending a relationship or moving from a place you had a great affinity with.
That being said, more often than not, grief is the result of losing a loved one, and that’s a difficult thing to come to terms with for anybody.
“Grief is really just a deep feeling of loss; it can be the loss of anything but the general perception is usually relating to death,” explains Carolyn Yaffe, cognitive behavioural therapist at Camali Clinic.
“It can cause feelings of hopelessness and cause people to react in a number of different ways, because what you need to remember is that it’s a personal process and no two people will process grief in the same way.”
She continues: “There’s also no set time limit for dealing with these emotions or prescribed path for people to take; it’s something that each person has to deal with themselves.”
While we all deal with grief in our own way, the common feeling of powerlessness and sorrow can be overwhelming.
But allowing yourself to accept and understand the situation is a vital part of the healing process.
“There is no single solution or formula to solve grief; there are no guidelines. The process needs to run its course and that will happen for an undetermined period of time,” explains Dr Najwan Al-Roubaiy, acting head of psychology at the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology.
“Everyone is different but all those going through the grieving process will experience a period of intense emotional distress.
“Each person needs to take their time and deal with it at their own pace because these emotions can’t be bottled up or hidden away. People need to be allowed to process all the emotions without interference.”
As family members or friends of someone who is grieving, it can be a challenge to know what to do, say and what support you can offer.
Should you give them space to let them deal with the situation? Should you be the shoulder to cry on?
Just like with the grieving process, there’s no set way to support someone in need, it’s a case of using your own judgement.
“Some people who are grieving will seek compassion and empathy and others will withdraw completely,” adds Dr Najwan.
“It’s a case of reading the person and their signals and try to support where possible without trying to alter their behaviour or do something that they’re not comfortable with.
“Be patient, be understanding and be available. Step in where you can and support them to keep their life going and moving forward while they process the difficult emotions.”
Let yourself grieve: Don’t try to hold back emotions or bottle things up. You need to process everything before you can begin to heal.
Understand there is no timescale: It’s not a race: take your time, process it for as long as you need, because moving on too quickly or ignoring your grief is not healthy.
Lean on friends and family: That’s what they’re there for; they will want to help you by lending a shoulder to cry on and listening when you need someone to help you through everything.
Join an online support group: Posting anonymously or reaching out to other people can help in the healing process. Try searching on Facebook to find groups with people who know what you’re going through or can relate to your experience.
Express your feelings: Write a journal, paint, play music or find another creative outlet where you can express your feelings and emotions.
Seek expert help: If it’s all too much and you’re struggling to come to terms with the loss then find a professional who will be able to help you make progress.
WORDS Colin Armstrong