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What is Grief and Loss?

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Grief and Loss defined

Grief is the natural and normal reaction to loss. There are many types of losses that we experience in our lives. It could be the loss of a loved one, a friend or a pet, job, dream we have for our future, or the end of an era. Some other examples of loss can be subtle, such as children leaving home, infertility or leaving friends and family.

What are the common reactions to grief and loss?

Everyone experiences a unique journey but there are a range of emotions that are normal to experience. These emotions can come in waves and can be really strong or quite subtle. These feelings can feel strong and you may wonder if they will ever end, but with time they should begin to decrease and be less dominant in your life. Time will help you begin to live with your loss and begin to move forward with your life.

The feelings, thoughts and changes may include:

Emotional: Feelings of anxiety or panic, anger, sadness, amplified emotionality, guilt, overwhelmed, relieved or numb are all emotions that can be experienced.

Physical: People can notice change in appetite, sleeplessness, crying, sighing, tiredness and fatigue.

Intellectual: There can be periods of confusion that are experienced along with, aimlessness, inability to concentrate, forgetfulness and lack of motivation.

Spiritual: We can begin searching for meaning, re-examine religious/spiritual beliefs, re-examination of our priorities, ethical and philosophical, questioning can also be experienced.

Social: There can be a tendency to withdraw from friends and family, or alternatively to over depend on them. People may also experience discomfort in social situations.

Tips for when someone else is grieving?

  • LISTEN and hear what is being said.
  • ACKNOWLEDGE that each griever’s experience will be unique.
  • Do remember that nobody has to JUSTIFY their feelings.
  • Don’t prevent the bereaved from EXPRESSING their guilt and anger.
  • Allow the griever TIME to grieve.
  • HELP the bereaved to realise the deceased is not coming home.
  • Encourage the EXPRESSION of emotion and allow them to work through their grief.
  • Allow the griever time to
  • Encourage the EXPRESSION of emotion and allow them to work through their grief.
  • Permit CHILDREN to share in the grief process with the adults.
  • ENCOURAGE the griever to live and love again when they are ready.

Children and adolescents experiencing grief

Grief in children and adolescents may be displayed differently to adults and may appear in ways that are not as noticeable. A few experiences may include: headaches, anger, nightmares, unusual behaviours, lack of focus and concentration as well as butterflies in the stomach. If youth don’t learn to cope with the hard events in their lives it may affect their coping skills throughout their lives, therefore, it can be important to get help for children when there has been a loss.

Helpful tips to manage your grief and loss

  • Find a meaningful way to remember and honor the person you have lost. It may be framing a photo, planting a memorial plant or writing down some special memories.
  • It will be a rollercoaster. Allow yourself time to journey through the process.
  • During the year there will be some events and anniversaries that will trigger your memories and the grief. Treat yourself kindly during these times.
  • Remember: Grieve your way. No one can tell you how to feel.

Karinya Counselling Centres have supplied a great resource to help manage your grief and loss.

Contributed by Ruth Walker, Karinya Counselling Centres