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How to Make it Through the Grieving Process

Times of celebration can be difficult for those who have lost someone or something. When everyone on your social feed is ‘cheers-ing’ to another year with their loved ones, what do you do when your loved one is no longer of this Earth?  Grief is the emotional manifestation of losing something or someone. We grieve the loss of people and pets we love. We grieve other significant losses like our relationships, our health or our jobs. And we can grieve over a future that will no longer be realised following significant events like a break-up, a life-altering diagnosis or illness, or a natural disaster.

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Image: Alyssa Stevenson

Our experiences of grief can be both constant and overwhelming, as well as intermittent and unpredictable. Our responses to loss affect our emotions, thoughts, behaviours and our physical health.

  • Emotional reactions:  sadness, anger, guilt, blame, relief and feeling numb
  • Thought processes: confusion, denial, difficulty concentrating
  • Physical symptoms: like loss of appetite, headaches, difficulty sleeping, lowered immune system, dull chest pain (this is often where the term ‘broken heart’ comes from)
  • Behavioural responses: crying, seeking support, isolating self.

Clinical psychologist, Dr. Lillian Nejad says, “grief is a painful part of the human experience. It’s impossible to avoid loss and the distress that it causes, but it is possible to find ways to live with our losses and manage and soothe the pain that is inevitably part of the process.” Some ways to help you through the painful experience of grief are:

  • Take your time: Grief is a process, and it can take time to accept a painful reality, especially the loss of a loved one. If you feel that the intensity of grief is too difficult to cope with or that your distress has not changed over time, you may be experiencing complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder and it is important to seek help from a mental health professional or grief specialist.
  • Cry it out: Crying is not weak. It is a healthy, cathartic release of overwhelming emotions. When you look at it like that, crying can help you to feel better, sooner. Let it out.
  • Talk about it: Spend time with your family and friends to seek comfort and express how you feel. Sometimes grieving together can help you feel less alone. And if you need additional support, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
  • Honour their memory: Your loved one still lives on in your heart and in your memories. Creating ways to continue your relationship with them through special rituals, mementos, raising a glass to them at a group celebration, or talking about their great qualities with loved ones can help you feel close and feel comforted.
  • Take care of yourself: Find ways to soothe yourself, stay healthy, and experience joy. It’s okay to look after yourself, feel good and to have moments of joy, laughter and playfulness, even when you’re grieving.

Importantly, remember that showing signs of grief is not a weakness, it is a natural human response to loss that we all experience. Because after all, what is grief if not love persevering?

About the Author: Tammi Miller is a certified practising counsellor, founder of BARE Therapy, and author of Paperback Therapy: Therapist-approved tools and advice for mastering your mental health. The Sydney-based professional is a Provisional Member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia, and received her training at the Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP) in 2020.