Grieving is simply our reaction to the loss of someone or something to which we had a significant attachment. Most people think of grief and loss in relation to losing a loved one. Few think of grief in relation to events, situations, or objects even though these tend to commonly activate a grief response.
Although loss is part of life, and grieving is a natural reaction to it, many people are unsure how to grieve properly or how to support a person who is grieving. There are many ways to grieve or deal with loss. What matters most is that we allow ourselves to grieve in some form. While it may be tempting to deny grieving in an attempt to avoid the pain, it’s much healthier to accept those feelings of pain and loss, and to work through them in an intentional, healthy way.
Generally speaking, most people experience some or all of the following while grieving:
- Change in mood or depression
- Emotional instability
- Changes in sleep and eating patterns
- Lack of desire or motivation
- Low energy and fatigue
- Difficulties with focus and concentration
- Not caring about things you typically care about
- Lack of or limited empathy and compassion for others
It is common for the above experiences to last for several weeks following a loss. Over time, as a person moves through their grief, they diminish in frequency and typical patterns should return. Although a depressed mood is natural when grieving, severe or lasting depression is not. Loss can be stressful and can activate other unresolved grief and loss. If any of the above experiences become lingering, the complexity of the situation may require professional assistance to get back on track.
If you or someone you know is experiencing grief, here are some important things to keep in mind when experiencing a loss:
- Allow your emotions to come and work through the pain
- Take care of your basic needs for sleep and food
- Adjust to the changes of the loss
- Allow yourself to move forward in due time
- Know you do not have to stop loving the person or thing you’ve lost
Unresolved grief and loss tends to surface in response to a new loss. Addressing unresolved grief and loss is a common part of addressing other types of mental health issues such as depression, trauma, substance abuse, etc.