Advice for coping with grief
Unfortunately grief is something almost everyone will experience at some point in their lives. Psychologist Dr Sasha Lynn offers some tips to help people cope during the toughest times.
What is grief?
Grief is a reaction to a major event in our lives. It may be experienced emotionally, physically and mentally. It may result from the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a job falling through, or a physical trauma. You may feel despair, anxiety, anger, denial, isolation and a lack of enjoyment in activities. Or, there could be numbness, shock, relief, peace and calm. Essentially we can experience grief in many ways and there is no right or wrong when it comes to how it makes us feel, think and act. There’s also no set timeline for grief, it can rage at full force, and then settle somewhat. Sometimes, it may never fully disappear.
Despite grief being such a unique and varied experience, there are a few coping strategies which could help for a number of different situations.
If you ever find yourself in the position of dealing with grief, here are some tips which may help:
Talk it out
Opening up about grief is a vital step in coping. It might be talking to a loved one, a best friend, a health professional, or even a pet. Just getting it out and processing your feelings is important. If you feel unable to talk about it initially, writing your thoughts down in a journal can also be helpful. It’s all about getting it out, rather than bottling it up.
Stick with routines
Though it can be extremely tough to keep moving, and you may not feel you’re able to do the things you normally do, trying to keep with a consistent routine can be beneficial. Just sticking with the everyday chores, following regular day-to-day patterns and being in the present moment can help in managing your feelings and keeping functional.
Acknowledge the emotions
It’s sometimes a natural reaction to try to bury pain. It doesn’t feel good, none of us want to experience it. So we brush it off, ignore it, pretend it’s not there. At times people can even try to escape it by doing things to numb the pain, like drinking or taking drugs. The thing is, grief isn’t going anywhere, and until we acknowledge it, and try to process it, it will remain. Unresolved grief can also cause a host of complications down the track.
Seek closure, where possible
Sometimes grief can sneak up unexpectedly, but in other instances it’s been coming for a long time. One way to help you move forward is to close the loop. Of course, it’s not always possible, but finding a way to achieve closure can help resolve feelings of grief and start living life again. It may simply be in a symbolic form, like scattering ashes, or creating a memory garden, or it may be through writing and formal strategies. The key is to draw that line in the sand for yourself to begin another life chapter. While you may never forget what led to your grief, you can seek closure from the painful emotions.
Right here and now, grief can be immense. It can hurt and feel like there is nothing ahead, and nothing behind. But, there is a way forward. Seeing what’s coming up, making some small plans and goals to work towards can help lift the fog of grief. Even something as simple as ‘I will text one friend next week’ is a goal to help you take a small step forward.
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Most importantly - there is no set schedule or recipe for coping with grief. We all deal with it differently, and it’s about what is going to work for you, and help you to heal. Time may not heal all wounds, but you can call the shots to begin the journey of moving forward. Seeking help from your GP can be important if you’re finding, after a prolonged period of time, your mood and coping appear to be worsening. There are some wonderful supports available in the community to help with complicated or prolonged grief, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Always remember there is a village around you.