Losing someone close to you can significantly impact your life. The experience of Loss and Grief is unique and personal to each of us, there is no right or wrong way to experience loss and grief. There is only your way.
It is normal to experience a broad range of reactions and emotions, and to feel your emotions are ‘up and down’. The adaptation to loss is an essential process.
The loss of a loved one can be your first thoughts in the morning and you may find it next to impossible to think about anything else.
There is no fixed time within which you should expect to feel better – so it is important to take care of, and be patient with ourselves (Smith, Robinson and Segal, 2017).
Feelings may include
Stages of Grief
- Sadness & Loneliness
- Anger – sense of frustration at powerlessness
- Anxiety and Fear
- Despair & Hopelessness
- Longing & Searching
- Shock or Disbelief
- Acceptance and Hope
It is normal to go back and forth between these stages at different times, skip stages, or not experience some of these stages at all (Kubler-Ross, 1969).
How your body reacts to grief
Grief not only affects how you feel but the stress of losing a loved one can also affect your body. Symptoms such as an upset stomach, diarrhoea, pain, tightness in chest, heart palpitations and shortness of breath can be common in the initial days.
- Headaches, muscle aches and tension,
- Decreased immune system (decreased ability to fight illness),
- Feeling anxious and/or nervous,
- Feeling tearful/more easily upset,
- Changes in appetite,
- Weight gain/loss,
- Finding it difficult to concentrate or being forgetful at times,
- Loss of interest in sex, and changes in menstrual cycle,
- Feeling agitated (HSE, 2016).
The above is a general list of symptoms associated with grief, if any of the above symptoms persist consult your doctor immediately.
Finding ways to cope with bereavement
- Talk to those close to you about your loved one who has died and how you feel. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions to family and friends
- Don’t distance yourself from those who care for you, their support will help you
- Don’t place expectations on yourself , be kind and give yourself time to grieve
- Don’t compare yourself to others and how they have coped with their loss
- You may not have the same energy for your partner, family, and friends as before and it is ok to be “good enough” at times
- You might find it difficult to meet demands of college life and it may be some time before you have interest in doing the work required. Talk to your tutors and lecturers so they understand.
- Try not to rely on alcohol or drugs to relieve the pain (HSE, 2016).
How to help someone who is bereaved
The support you can offer a loved one who is grieving can be invaluable to them.
Everyone has their own way of grieving, at times you may feel helpless and unsure, but by giving them time, you are offering them a place of comfort and ensuring they don’t feel isolated . You don’t need to know exactly what to say, being there for them is the important part. Ensure to keep in contact and let them know you are there for them.
Often people who have lost loved ones like to talk about the person they have lost. Let them talk, listen to what they have to say and don’t change the subject.
If they are experiencing emotions like anger or guilt, give them time to vocalise their feelings.
They may feel frustrated and are likely to take it out on those who they are closest to. Try to make allowances for these situations (HSE ,2016).
What do I say?
Acknowledge that this is a really hard time for them. It is ok to let them know you don’t know what to say.
How can I help?
Be as practical as you can in offering help for day to day tasks such as getting dinner or doing some house work.
Make suggestions of how you can help them such as “I can make dinner” rather that a general suggestion such as “Let me know if you need anything” as people who are in the process of grieving can find it difficult to ask for help.
You can contact;
I.T Sligo’s Student Counselling Service on:
- Email:firstname.lastname@example.org, or
- Phone:087 3561756 or 083 0025881
I.T Sligo’s Student Health Service on:
- Email:email@example.com or
- Phone:071 9305205
Bereavement Counselling Service, Sligo/Leitrim and West Cavan (Tel: 071 9155108 Email: hannonBC@nullnullhse.ie)
Samaritians on free call 116 123