Have you recently lost a loved one, a job, a relationship, a friend or a pet? Are you feeling overwhelming sadness, grief, loss, anger, hurt, guilt or other emotions? Do these emotions stop you or hold you back from moving forward and living your life?

What are grief and loss?

Grief and loss are emotions just like anger and fear. Grieving is a natural human process and it is important that we allow ourselves to feel grief after a loss. People can feel grief and loss after losing a loved one, a pet, a friend, a job, after a relationship break up, when they move interstate or overseas and lose their friends and/or their sense of identity, or any time any relationship, project or situation ends or concludes. In these situations it is appropriate for us to feel a range of emotions, including grief and loss.

The degree of grieving can vary depending on the situation and the person. At the same time, if we find ourselves feeling overwhelming grief or loss, it is a sign that these emotions are unresolved and they may prevent us from fully living our lives and doing the things we desire. The grieving process can be as short or as long as we feel we need, each person is different.

Generally, the grieving process is shorter if we are complete with the person that has left us or with the situation that has happened. If we have the opportunity to say or express what is on our mind, how we feel and there is nothing left unsaid, then we are complete with the person or situation. Therefore, it is important that we allow ourselves the time and space to fully express our grief and loss.

Are you allowing yourself to grieve?
If we do not allow ourselves sufficient time to grieve and instead suppress our emotions and soldier on as if all is well, this can create other challenges – including lack of sleep, stress, frustration, feeling overly responsible, guilt and can even result in ill health. Because any time we do not listen to our emotions and suppress them, we risk creating emotional, mental and physical health issues.

Our beliefs can also impact on the degree to which we grieve. For example, if we have a belief that it is not OK to express our emotions or if we were brought up not to grieve, these beliefs can prevent us from giving ourselves permission to grieve.

It is also important that there is a supportive environment for those experiencing grief or loss, that we show them empathy and understanding and that they are encouraged and given an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings with others.

Supporting others

Below are 5 things to keep in mind when supporting a friend or loved one during the grieving process:

  1. respect the friend’s/loved one’s pace. Avoid rushing them through the grieving process. Allow them to set the pace and duration of their grieving process.
  2. respect the friend’s/loved one’s need for space and time alone. Some people need to be on their own and have the space to grieve in a way that is appropriate for them.
  3. offer help and support rather than being too pushy with your help. By offering your help and support or suggesting professional help, the friend/loved one will ask for this help when they are ready.
  4. when the friend/loved one is ready to talk, be there for them and take the time to listen to them. Some people just need a caring ear so respect their need to be heard.
  5. if the friend/loved one becomes overly emotional, frustrated or sad, avoid taking it personally or overreacting to their emotions. Realise that their response is to the situation rather than to you as a person.

While challenging, dealing with grief and loss can be a more comfortable journey when we allow ourselves to express our emotions and when we surround ourselves with supportive people. This will assist us to preserve our health and wellbeing and also refocus on living our life.