Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realise that nothing really belongs to them.”
Losing someone you loved and cherished can feel like a punch in the guts. Bent over, winded, head ringing in disbelief that the person you knew and loved is never going to be there again in their physical form. The physical symptoms we go through during grief and loss are palpable, just as the emotional ones wring us with the ache of longing and sadness, we can also feel physically exhausted, nauseous, suffer from aches and pains and insomnia.
Some people describe feeling in a dream like state, wanting to wake up and for it all to be over and their loved one returned. Our grieving is a deeply intimate process that can be triggered throughout the day by specific things we are reminded of about the person who died– their touch, their specific scent, their sound or specific words, local places that hold shared memories, as well as the unique energetic emanation that made them who they were.
What do we Grieve About?
Grief symptoms can also manifest in relationship breakups with a partner or a long term friend. This can feel just as strong as loss through death. The same responses apply – poor sleep, a sense of feeling disoriented, poor appetite, despair and those waves of nausea that are often connected with deep loss. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. Any loss can trigger a grief response and these include:
How do we possibly get over someone we’ve loved dearly and lost?
Some people believe that you never actually get over losing someone you love, you just learn how to live with it. As much as we feel we should be over it or people reassure us that we’ll get over it, we may not be over it in weeks, months or even years. The key is that it takes time and space – our own individual timing and space that feels safe and unpressurised.
Space to allow your feelings to be as they are without fighting them or pushing them away. Eventually we do get better at living with it and accepting the finality of our loss. This can feel like an impossible ask, particularly if it is a child who has died or loss that was under tragic circumstances.
This is a process that cannot be rushed, but ultimately acceptance is what helps us move on and recognise that we are all indeed part of the cycle of life – birth, maturation, decay and death. Whatever is born must die. Whatever grows must decay. These are universal laws. We each are faced with our own mortality when someone near us dies. We each are faced with the reality that we are consciousness in a casing of flesh and bone that has it’s own maturation process. This is reflected all around us in nature, in the cycles of the day, in the seasons and for women so distinctly in our menstrual cycle.
What can I expect in the grieving process?
I recently experienced the loss of my beloved dog. It happened very quickly and unexpectedly given she wasn’t particularly old. I was deeply touched by the love of friends and family who surrounded me with their kindness and care during this painful time. I felt held by many hands as I surrendered to the ache of my sadness. Accepting the love of others was an important part of accepting that my dog had really gone. This was it, when I got home at the end of the day and opened the door, she wouldn’t be on the other side to greet me.
Allowing the love of friends and family helped me to absorb the sheer shock of it all. I feel very fortunate that for the most part, my friends and family did not put any pressure on me to ‘get over’ the grieving. This has allowed me to relax and feel secure in the knowledge that I am in a process. It’s a painful one but accepting it is part of my healing.
In1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.”
The five stages of grief:
- Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
- Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
- Bargaining: “If only we had sought medical attention sooner… “
- Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
- Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”
If you are experiencing any of these emotions following a loss, it may help to remind yourself that your reaction is a healthy and natural part of your healing journey. Not everyone will go through all these stages and you may not experience them in any specific order. They are more like pointers of what you may experience rather than something that is stitched up in any fixed sequence. Your grieving process is as individual as you are.
Simple Steps for Recovery and Healing
- Let Others Care For You: Please don’t grieve alone. As mentioned earlier getting support from friends and family helped my own healing immensely. It is the most important thing you can do for yourself, allowing yourself to receive care and support from those who are around you. Support and comfort may come in many forms including your neighbours, work colleagues or a professional counsellor.
- Care for Yourself: There is a lot of stress associated with grief and loss. It can deplete us emotionally as well as physically. Make sure you are resting, eating regularly even if simply, and allowing time and space for any feelings to come through. When you feel good physically, you’ll also feel better emotionally. Trying to push away feelings of sadness and loss stretches out the grieving process. Repressing our feelings can lead to feeling depressed and anxious which can in turn have an effect on our immune system. Make sure you are in places that nourish you, feel peaceful to you and give you solace. This may be a quiet and beautiful room in your home or it could be somewhere in nature.
Finally, remind yourself, you are on your own healing journey and death and loss is part of the rich fabric that makes up life.
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