Grief is a normal and natural response to loss. While most often associated with the loss of a loved one, grief can also happen after other significant losses, including:
- The end of a relationship
- The death of a pet
- Someone you love contracts a life-threatening illness
- A much-anticipated opportunity or life goal is suddenly closed to us
Healthy grieving results in an ability to remember the importance of your loss with a newfound sense of peace. However, if your grief is overwhelming and you’re thinking about suicide, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1(800) SUICIDE (1-800-273-8255).
Grieving typically follows five stages, which will be outlined in the following section. But it’s important to note that it’s not a linear process and that people grieve differently. If you understand your emotions, take care of yourself, and seek support, you can heal.
Stages of Grief
The stages of grief have been generalized to five stages, which you may experience after losing a loved one or having a negative, life-changing event:
Thinking “this can’t be happening to me” is a normal reaction to loss. You may feel shocked or numb. It’s a defense mechanism used to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion.
When reality sets in, you’re faced with the pain of your loss. You may feel frustrated and helpless. These feelings later turn into anger. You might direct it towards other people, a higher power, or life in general. It’s also natural to feel anger towards the person who died and left you alone.
During this stage, you may dwell on what you could’ve done differently to prevent the loss. Common thoughts are “If only…” and “What if…” You may also try to strike a deal with a higher power.
As you begin to process the loss and how it’ll affect your life, sadness sets in. This can lead to depression. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, and a decreased appetite. You may also feel overwhelmed, regretful, and lonely.
In this final stage of grief, you learn to accept the reality of your loss. You know it can’t be changed. You’ll still feel sad, but you’ll be able to move on with your life.
Don’t struggle in silence.
If your emotions are becoming overwhelming, find a behavioral health provider near you.
Healthy Ways to Grieve
Grief can often make you want to retreat into your shell and withdraw from others. But it’s important to get the support you need from friends and family to help you heal. Here are some healthy ways to grieve:
Turn to Family and Friends
Even if you take pride in being strong and independent, now is the time to lean on the people who care about you the most. Don’t push people away. Spend face-to-face time with friends and loved ones and accept the help they offer.
Plan a Distraction
Schedule a gathering or visit with friends during a time that you might be feeling alone or reminded of your loved one’s death. This can help take your mind off it for a while.
Anniversaries are common times for you to experience a greater feeling of loss. Knowing that you’re likely going to be experiencing anniversary emotions can help you understand them and turn them into opportunities for healing.
Start a New Tradition
Plant a tree in honor of your loved one or make a donation to a charitable organization in their name. This can help put a positive spin on your loss.
Allow Yourself to Experience a Range of Emotions
Feeling sad about your loss is normal, but it’s also normal to allow yourself to experience joy and happiness. You may even laugh, then start crying, which is completely normal.
Side Effects of Grieving
Dealing with grief can take its toll on your body and mind. The way you feel, the way your body functions, and the way you interact with others can be affected. Some of the common side effects of the grieving process include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Intense sadness or tears when a memory is triggered
- Withdrawal from others
- Loss of appetite
No matter how grief affects you, it’s important to remember that it’s temporary and that there’s life after grief.
Learn More About Healthy Grieving and Speaking with a Professional
If you’d like to meet with a Baptist Health professional who can help you deal with your grief and the side effects you may be experiencing, find a provider, and schedule an appointment today.Find a Provider