A practical guide to dealing with loss and grief

It is a given that at some point in your life something will happen that will cause you to grief. A simple fact of life. It can be anything ranging from the
death of a loved one to the loss of a job, or a break-up. And yet the fact that we are all well aware of the inevitability does not make dealing with grief and loss any easier to bear when they finally happen. In fact, the way we get affected it is as though we have been expecting a loss and grief-free life all along.

A few factors contribute to how a person griefs. And the factors differ from person to person. Factors like upbringing, faith, age, relationships, mental and physical health are determining factors in how a person deals with grief. 

Grief is the emotional pain you feel when you lose something. It may be divorce, retirement, death of a loved one, loss of health or financial stability. There’s a lot of things one can potentially lose. And grief is a natural response to losing any of those things, which can be overwhelming. There’s no telling how overwhelming, because the more significant your loss, the more acute your grief will be.
However, grief is not always caused by something very profound. Some griefs just creep in on you unexpectedly. These kinds of griefs are the ones you did not expect and they are subtle in their manifestation. But painful and crippling nonetheless. For instance, you might find yourself unexpectedly grieving the sale of your family home even though it fetched you money, graduating from the university, changing jobs or even relocation to a new place. But whatever is causing you grief you should never be ashamed of expressing it. 
In What Ways Can Grief Affect You
How grief affects a person can be grouped into two: there’s the emotional part of it and the physical part. 
While grieving is different from person to person, under each group are how it affects many people. 
Emotional aspect
  • Disbelief 
A grieving person will first experience shock, after which disbelief sets in. The person is struggling to accept what has happened. They are feeling like this is a bad dream and sooner or later someone is going to tap them awake and assure them that it’s all just a bad dream. For example, if you lose a loved one you might keep expecting them to show up somehow. 
  • Sadness
Sadness is, perhaps, the most commonly experienced symptom of grief. At this point, a person is emotionally unstable. It may range from a feeling of profound loneliness to despair, yearning, or emptiness. 
  • Guilt
Grieving sometimes comes with a feeling of guilt. The guilt arises as a result of what part a person thinks they might have played in the buildup of loss. It is in human nature to analyse things. So a person can think he or she might have done something differently to prevent the loss. Also, a feeling of guilt may arise from feeling relieved that a loved one has died after a long illness.
  • Anger
  • A grieving person may feel angry with God, themselves, the doctors, or even the loved one for daring to die and abandoning them. 
    Physical aspect

  • Most of what people feel during grief is emotional, but physical effects may include loss of appetite, insomnia, weight loss or weight gain, and fatigue. 
    Dealing with grief and loss
  • Grief has a way of making a person want to have nothing to do with others. It happens as a kind of withdrawal from everything one knows. But just being around loved ones can help in dealing with grief.
    Let friends and family help
    It is understandable to want to withdraw or feel like you’re strong and self-sufficient. But grieving is a time in which you should lean on other people and accept help. Pull your friends and family closer for support. And one of the most difficult things about grief is that people want to help but don’t know how they can support you. So if you need anything, don’t hesitate to let them know.
    Find comfort in your beliefs
    As most people go through life, they most likely pick up things that make up their belief system. It can be religion or something else. Some people simply draw beliefs from previous experiences or what they’ve seen others go through. So whatever the case, find some strength and comfort from whatever you believe in, whether religious or otherwise. 
  • Accept awkwardness as a part of it
    When most people comfort you during your grieving period, they might do something wrong or out of place in that situation. Don’t use it as an opportunity to withdraw. Understand that awkwardness comes with trying to comfort a grieving person. People don’t always know what to do or how to go about providing comfort. 
    See a counsellor 
    Find a mental health specialist with a lot of experience in grief counselling if your grief becomes too crippling. The mental health specialist can help you process your emotions and the things stopping you from coming out of grief.
    Find a support group 
  • A support group can be online or offline. You can often feel lonely and deserted during grieving, even when you have loved ones around. It just feels like you’re utterly alone in it. So sharing your pain with others who are experiencing similar things can help a lot. 
    Sometimes grief can trigger depression. So if you feel like things have gone too far, please seek treatment immediately. 
This article was first published on AfricaParent.com
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