May 1, 2024

Coping with Grief and Loss: Healing After a Significant Loss

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Sadly, grief is a part of the human experience. It’s something that all of us will have to face at some point in life. While grief is a normal and completely natural response, healing after loss can feel beyond impossible at times. There is no single right way to grieve. Finding the right support and looking after your physical health are important during this time.  

What Is Grief And How Does It Manifest?

Grief is a natural response to loss, usually the death of a loved one. It’s the distress and anguish you feel, and it can manifest in several different ways. Grief can take on various forms and manifest in intense and unbearable physical and emotional pain. You can experience anything from anger and denial to sadness and hopelessness. There’s really no guidebook to follow, and everyone’s experience of grieving and bereavement is unique.  

Not everyone will feel every symptom; grief is extremely personal. Symptoms of grief can be categorized into emotional, physical, cognitive, behavioral, and social symptoms. 

  • Sadness: This can range from mild to severe. People may feel intense sadness, emptiness, or despair.
  • Anger: It is common to feel angry after a loss, even if you are angry at the person you lost. Anger can also be directed at yourself, others, and the world.
  • Guilt: People may feel guilty about things they said or did or things they didn’t say or do before the loss.
  • Fear: It is common to feel scared or anxious after a loss. You may fear the future or worry about what will happen to the people you love.
  • Loneliness: After a loss, you may feel isolated and alone. You may withdraw from social activities or feel like no one understands what you are going through.
  • Numbness: Some people feel numb after a loss as if they are going through the motions but not really feeling anything.
  • Shock: It is normal to feel shocked or in disbelief after a loss, making it difficult to process what has happened.
  • Denial: This may involve refusing to believe that the loss has happened.
  • Physical symptoms: Grief can also manifest in physical symptoms, such as fatigue, changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping, and headaches.
  • Changes in behavior: People may experience changes in their behavior after a loss, such as withdrawing from social activities or neglecting personal care. 

What Are The Stages Of Grief?

Typically, the five stages of grief are: 

  1. Denial 
  2. Anger 
  3. Bargaining 
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

While grief is discussed in stages, it’s a non-linear process, meaning there is no set order or timeframe. Grief isn’t linear or universal, so the stages may not apply to your personal experience. Stages of grief can help people normalize their feelings and know that what they are experiencing is completely normal, but they are a model, not a strict linear timeline of how everyone feels. 

How Long Will It Take To Feel Better?

Research suggests that most people recover from loss over time with social support and healthy habits. However, there is no set time on how long this process lasts, and evidence suggests that most people don’t go through grief in stages as steps that follow one another. 

Depending on the circumstances, some people can continue their lives after a couple of weeks, whereas others can’t perform simple daily activities. If you are struggling with grief, you could benefit from speaking with a mental health professional who specializes in grief. 

How Do I Cope With The Physical Symptoms Of Grief?

The physical symptoms of grief can manifest in different ways: 

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep 
  • Feeling physically drained of energy 
  • Muscle tension
  • Changes in appetite and digestion 

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to get rid of the physical symptoms of grief. You may feel like you are not eating or can’t get out of bed. While grief can definitely manifest in an intensely physical way, it’s important to prioritize self-care during this difficult time to promote overall well-being. Try to get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and move your body in any way you can. 

If physical symptoms persist or you’re struggling to cope, talk to your doctor, who can rule out underlying health conditions. A therapist can also provide guidance on managing grief and coping mechanisms for emotional and physical distress. 

What Are Healthy Ways To Cope With Grief? 

Seeking Support: The Importance of Therapy, Counseling, and Community in the Healing Process

Research shows that children deal better with grief when they have support from parents or other caring adults. In adults, social support is especially important in traumatic grief, with emotional support being the most preferred type of support following a traumatic loss. 

Here are some grief support resources for additional help: 

Is Therapy Helpful For Dealing With Grief?

Psychologists are trained to help people deal with difficult emotions associated with death. While a therapist can’t take the pain away, they can work with you to build resilience, process tough emotions, teach coping mechanisms, and help provide a sense of community. 

Therapy for grieving individuals can help provide a safe space to express emotions, process the loss, and start to develop coping skills. A psychologist can also help to identify prolonged grief disorder, a condition where grief becomes much more severe and persistent, stopping individuals from continuing their lives. Look for a therapist who specializes in grief counseling or has experience working with people going through a similar situation. 

Honoring the Memory: Creating Meaningful Tributes and Rituals to Remember Loved Ones

The expression of grief and rituals differ across cultures, the individual, and the nature of the loss. There is no right or wrong way to honor a loved one, but it can be a valuable tool for healing in several ways: 

  • Keeps their memory alive
  • Promotes acceptance 
  • Helps find meaning 
  • Facilitates emotional expression 

Embracing Healing: Let Yourself Feel Each Emotion 

Findings suggest that rumination appears to be particularly detrimental in people with severe grief reactions. Rumination involves focusing on repetitive and negative thoughts. You typically focus on the negative part of the problem and how you feel about the problem. 

Instead, focusing on processing emotion and feeling each emotion as it comes may be more helpful in moving forward after bereavement. One way therapy can help with the healing process is by helping you to process thoughts and emotions to help free you from negative thoughts. 

Other research suggests keeping a journal to put your loss into words to help you identify how you can help with moving forward. This doesn’t just apply to grief but to any loss you may be feeling. 

How To Process And Deal With Grief 

Greif is a natural emotional response. It can occur after losing someone you love or after a serious illness, divorce, or any significant loss in your life. There’s no denying that grief involves intense emotions that are impossible to prepare for. For most people, the intensity of grief does lessen over time, and while they still miss a lost loved one, they can find meaning, experience, and pleasure again in life. 

For others, persistent feelings of sadness and despair may not feel like they are getting any better. Grief can completely disrupt a person’s life, affecting their job, relationships, and health. Allow yourself time to grieve, stay connected to your community, and ask for help if needed. That could be talking to your doctor, therapist, support group, or a trusted friend. 
Remember, you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. If you’re struggling to cope, consider contacting a therapist at Thriving Center of Psych. Our compassionate team is here to support you every step of the way. Book an appointment today and take the first step towards healing. We conveniently have offices in NYC, LA, and throughout the country. 

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