So often when you turn the TV on or read the paper, all you see is the pain that is experienced across the world.
You might even start to feel the grief that belongs to others. You might look at your own life, and whether it be the loss of your parents, important relationships, children or your unborn child, the pain becomes unbearable.
When You Haven’t Grieved and the Hits Keep Coming
Grief doesn’t always mean tears; it can come out in many ways. Learning however to recognise what’s happening within yourself will help you identify when you are not coping or responding in your normal way.
When you have experienced a lot of grief over the years and haven’t resolved it, the results can be debilitating, stopping you healing and fully embracing your life. It sits like a dead weight inside of you, often stopping you connecting with others or remembering the last day you felt true happiness.
However, if we don’t deal with it, like a bottle of lemonade when you shake it, it does work its way out and often can show itself when you are least expecting it.
Working through your grief is important for your healing.
The Stages of Grief
Grief is a natural emotion and an important part of the healing process. No one can tell you how your grief will show itself.
There are stages of grief that we all go through. Sometimes we move up and down through the stages depending on what is happening.
Generally though we experience shock/numbness or denial as the first stage. This can be the lull before the storm! Often the level of distress is so high that we can’t process it very easily. It can actually be the time where we go into automatic pilot and get things organised or push through. It is quite a useful stage, as we are not always ready to cope with the full level of the grief.
We often hear people talk about the next stage as ‘bargaining’. This is where we are often not willing to accept the outcome, and so we try everything to stop what’s happening. For example, where a loved one is in a vegetative coma but you try bargaining what you will do differently if they survive.
This is normal and helps us to slowly process what is happening.
The next stage is where the grief and sadness really hits, and we can feel incredibly lonely and depressed or even that life has no meaning. During this stage we can start to feel a sense of anger and injustice, particularly when a child has died or a tragic accident has taken someone close. We can also get stuck in this stage when a relationship has broken up. However it’s important to make sure that you reach out for help if you notice that you can’t seem to move beyond this stage, for support to complete the healing process.
Acceptance is the final stage. The grief can remain, as well as the sense of sadness, but we recognise that it’s happened and can’t be changed. Again at times we may need support to manage this.
When Will this Pain End?
There is no set time for how long grief can last. The more you allow yourself to work through the stages, embracing grief, the more ‘complete’ you will feel. Your body and emotions need to be allowed to take the time they need to get through it.
For women who may have lost several children through miscarriage or as a stillborn, or have been with a partner for 30-40 years, the grief may continue to bring on sadness for a lengthy time.
- Be kind to yourself and know that you will get through this.
- Ensure you are taking time to eat, exercise and sleep – even if it’s hard to do.
- Surround yourself with supportive people.
- Practice Mindfulness. Slow your breathing, allow yourself to feel your emotions. This is important to your healing and keeping your thoughts positive.
- Reach out for help when you need to. Remember you do not need to do this alone.
How you are feeling is normal and while grief is very painful, embracing it will free you!
Author: Amanda Renger, B Soc Sc, M Couns, M Soc Wk, ACMHSW.
Amanda Renger has a double Masters degree in Social Work and in Counselling, and enjoys working with individuals, families, young adults, people with a disability and older persons. Using evidence-based theories and comprehensive assessments, she works to build the capacity of people to self-determine their journey, and to restore individual and family wellbeing.
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