Grief is something that everyone will likely experience at some point in their life. Whether it be due to the death of a loved one, the death of a beloved pet, the end of relationship, a miscarriage, or even the loss of a job, grief is something that many people go through.
Grief vs. Depression
Sometimes people mistake grief for depression. There are some similarities between the two including deep sadness, struggling to eat and/or sleep, and forgetting or not wanting to do daily things like drinking water or exercising.
Grief is a process and can last different lengths depending on the person. When grieving, sadness comes in waves where there are many highs and lows. It is also triggered by thoughts or memories. If unhealthy habits such as not getting enough sleep or abnormal eating patterns persist when grieving, then it is possible the grief has turned into depression. This can be especially true when someone has not been taking care of themselves physically or has been isolated.
Getting support from others who have gone through the grief process can be so important in helping someone to get through it. For example, a support group can help you see how to better cope and to realize you are not alone.
There can be both emotional and physical symptoms that emerge during the grieving process.
Some emotional symptoms to watch out for include:
being preoccupied with the loss
not able to show or experience joy
Some physical symptoms include:
pain in the chest
Remember, that not everyone will experience each one of these symptoms during the grieving process. Everyone will experience it differently with their own mix of emotions and physical responses. Just be aware that if these symptoms do arise they are not abnormal effects of grief.
Stages of Grief
There are five different stages of grief. Not everyone goes through each stage or even goes through them in order. However, understanding the stages of grief can help you understand your needs as you go through the grief process.
Denial - looks like avoidance, being easily distracted, or even saying "I'm fine."
Anger - looks like sarcasm, pessimism, irritability, and getting into arguments.
Bargaining - looks like worry, perfectionism, judgement toward self and others, and overthinking or worrying.
Depression - looks like crying, sleep and appetite changes, reduced energy, less social interaction, and reduced motivation.
Acceptance - looks like engaging with reality, mindful behaviors, adapting skillfully, being present in the moment.
Grief is a unique process for each individual. Everyone takes their own amount of time to get through it. Many factors that make the timeline different for everyone include the individual's unique life experiences, the depth of the loss, whether trauma was involved, and how long it takes to embrace the emotions that come with grieving.
Be sure to understand that patience with yourself is so important when grieving. Obviously nobody loves feeling miserable and you would likely want to get back to your normal life as fast as possible but it is important to take the time for yourself to feel those emotions.
Take Care of Yourself
Do your best to take care of yourself while grieving. It can be hard because you will likely feel exhausted. However, taking care of yourself both emotionally and physically is so important to help you feel your best during such a difficult time.
Continue to do those things that interest you such as hobbies and other activities. This can include baking, sports, or even exercise which can also be a way of looking after your physical health.
Something to also be aware of are grief triggers. Some triggers can include holidays, memories, anniversaries, or even objects. Being prepared for these kinds of triggers can be helpful in knowing what to expect because it is perfectly normal to be really emotional on these days.
Be sure to be mindful of your feelings. Do not push them under the rug, but instead face them and express them in any way you choose. Some ideas include talking to someone, writing your thoughts and feelings down, or even making a scrapbook. Also, be sure that you nor anyone else are telling you how to feel. You grieve in your own way and feel your own emotions. No one, including yourself, has the right to tell you how to feel or how long you should be grieving.
Keep the Memory Alive
If a loved one has passed on you may be feeling a mix of emotions regarding their memory. Many people may be scared they will forget their loved one. Some want to forget their memory either because they feel like they think it will be easier to move on or they don't want to remember the bad memories associated with that person.
However, to a certain degree you should not just black out the person you lost. It can actually be therapeutic to talk about the deceased individual and remember the memories you made with them. Even though it will likely bring up many emotions, it is good to continue talking about the deceased individual on occasion.
Talk with friends who know what grief is like.
Be kind and patient with yourself as you grieve.
Get your rest.
Practice being mindful of your emotions.
Set a sleep schedule to set yourself up for getting rest.
Exercise and get outside at least once a day.
Keep your daily routines to maintain structure.
Set small goals.
Make a list of activities you can do each day.
Be cautious with making big decisions while grieving.
Set aside time for self-care activities.
One of the most common reasons for grief is because of the loss of a loved one. For some, it may be the most difficult thing they will have to face in their life. Since grief is not just a small thing do not be afraid to reach out for help. And contrary to popular belief, it is not a sign of weakness to talk with someone or to join a support group.
Cleveland Clinic. (2018). 13 tips to help navigate grief. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/grief-whats-normal-whats-not-and-13-tips-to-get-through-it/.
Smith, M., Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (2021). Coping with grief and loss. Help Guide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm.
Stanaway, C. (2020). The stages of grief: Accepting the unacceptable. University of Washington. https://www.washington.edu/counseling/2020/06/08/the-stages-of-grief-accepting-the-unacceptable/.