Grief is a universal, instinctual and an adaptive reaction to loss, particularly the grief from the loss of a loved one. Feelings of loss are very personal and only we know what is significant. Less obvious losses can also cause strong feelings of grief such as loss of possessions, job, relationship, health or physical ability.
Loss is an inevitable part of life and grief is a natural part of the healing process that varies for different people. The grieving process allows those left behind, after a death, to accept the person is no longer around. When experiencing and reacting to grief, it is common to:
- feel sad or depressed, anxious, nervous or fearful;
- be irritable or angry (at the deceased, ourself, others);
- feel frustrated or misunderstood;
- feel like we want to escape;
- experience guilt or remorse;
- be ambivalent, lack energy and motivation.
Each one of us has an individual style of coping with painful experiences (there is no right or wrong way). Some people don’t show their grief in public but only express it in private. We don’t always know how people are coping simply by what we see.
The following tips may help generate ideas about how to manage feelings of grief:
- talk to family, friends or a mate;
- engage in social activities;
- exercise and eat healthy foods;
- take time to relax, listen to music;
- seek counselling or join a support group;
- be patient and let ourselves feel grief.
The length of the grief process is different for everyone. It takes time to heal and this may not be just days it can be weeks, months and even years.
Grief comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, we’re drowning, surrounded by wreckage reminding us of the ship that was and is no more, and all we can do is float. As we float we hang onto a piece of wreckage for a while in the form of a physical thing (a memory or photograph), it may even be another person floating with us, and for a while all we can do is float. In the beginning we have 10 metre waves crashing over us 10 seconds apart barely allowing us to breath. After a while (maybe weeks or months) the 10 metre waves still come crashing over us, but they are now further apart allowing us to breath and function without as much difficulty.
There will be triggers of grief that will arise (a song, a place, a photo) and a wave will come crashing down but in between there is life. Somewhere down the line (it is different for everybody) we find the waves are only 8 or 5 metres, they still come but are further apart. We will be able to see them coming (special anniversary days) but now we can prepare ourselves for the waves, knowing we will come out the other side, soaking wet, spluttering and still hanging onto a piece of wreckage but we will come out. Intermittent waves never stop coming and we don’t really want them to, but we will survive them.
If we feel we are not coping, we need to seek professional help from our GP or a counsellor.
Owen and the Team
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277