Times of emotional crisis and upset often involve some kind of loss. For example, the loss of a loved one or the end of a marriage or relationship.
Most people grieve when they lose something or someone important to them. Grieving can feel unbearable but it’s a necessary process.
How does grief make you feel?
The way grief affects you depends on many things, such as the nature of the loss, your upbringing, your beliefs or religion, your age, your relationships, and your physical and mental health.
You can react in many ways to a loss. “But, ultimately grief consists of several key emotions. Anxiety and helplessness often come first,” explains clinical psychologist Linda Blair. Anger is also common, including feeling angry at someone who has died for ‘leaving you behind’. This is a natural part of the grieving process, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that. “There’s also sadness, which often comes later.”
Knowing that these emotions are common can help to normalise them. It’s very important to know that they will pass. Some people take a lot longer than others to recover. Some need help from a counsellor, therapist or their GP. But eventually you’ll adjust to your loss, and the intense feelings usually subside.
Dealing with the emotions
“Grief always requires a period of adjustment,” Blair says. “Give yourself time to adjust and recover. Be respectful of yourself and your grief. You might feel hopeless for a while. Be patient with yourself.”
There’s no instant fix. You might feel affected every day for about a year to eighteen months after a major loss. After this time, the grief is less likely to be at the forefront of your mind.
There are practical things you can do to get through a time of crisis or loss:
- Express yourself. Talking is often a good way to soothe painful emotions. Talking to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor can begin the healing process.
- Allow yourself to feel sad. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process. Crying enables your body to release tension.
- Maintain a schedule. Expert Linda Blair recommends keeping “simple things in your routine. It reduces the panicky feelings. It’s important that you see other people at least once a week because it grounds you.”
- Sleep. Emotional strain can make you very tired. If you’re having trouble sleeping, see your GP.
- Eat healthily. A healthy, well-balanced diet will help you to cope with your emotions.
- Avoid things that ‘numb’ the pain, such as alcohol. It will make you feel worse once the numbness wears off.
- Go to counselling if it feels right for you, but perhaps not immediately. “Your emotions can overwhelm you at the beginning. Counselling may be more useful after a couple of weeks or months. But only you know when you’re ready,” says Blair