Like most people I have experienced my fair share of loss, each death has affected me differently and through utilising support networks available to me, and my training as a counsellor, I have come to realise that there are no rules, and that grief is personal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Ultimately we all experience loss differently. There is an expectation that reacting to loss and grief should be universal, but learning to accept how we process and manage grief individually is really important.
There are different stages to the grieving process, and having an awareness and understanding of what these may look like, and recognising that there are no steadfast rules can help us be kinder to ourselves and others as we navigate life after death.
Grief is a personal journey
The multitude of emotions contained within the grieving process can be both overwhelming and hard to process. Normalising these emotions can help to reduce the feeling of isolation that grief can cause.
Grief can be all-consuming, we often feel that no-one else knows what we are going through, there can be thoughts of isolation, shock, anger, fear, disbelief, denial, longing, hurt, pain and many more. We may find ourselves both wanting, and not wanting to talk to those around us. Company is both a hindrance and a distraction, a sense of emptiness and loneliness can encompass our daily routine, and the distraction of keeping busy is sometimes the only way we can cope.
Every one of us will react and manage differently. Some people never experience the emotional turmoil associated with grief, whilst others find themselves in a whirlwind of emotions.
No matter what way you manage grief, know that it is ok.
The most important thing is to recognise that what you are going through is normal, and that every stage and emotion is a step towards you moving forward.
Healing can be a slow process, but it does come.
We do not all need to cry or talk when we are grieving, as individuals we handle loss differently. Societal expectations around how we should express grief, especially in the early stages of loss can make us question ourselves when we are already vulnerable and suffering. Grief is personal.
Lean into your support network
Reaching out for support when we are struggling can be difficult, but it is often a great comfort to know that we are not alone and there is help available from people who understand our emotional journey.
Counselling can help us cope with our grief in a healthy way, enabling us to process our emotions and find a ways to cope. Having someone listen and respect your journey can help validate and normalise our experience of loss.
When someone close to us passes away it can be difficult to find the words to express how we are feeling. Sometimes just having a friend or loved one there if we need them is enough comfort.
We need space to talk when we are ready and forcing things can add stress to an already difficult experience. So, don’t be afraid to ask your support network to give you a bit of space, and acknowledge you know they are there for you.
Accepting practical support can be as important as emotional support.
There is no time-frame for healing grief
Returning to some element of normality after the death of a loved one can be very difficult and it is important to be aware that there is support out there.
Grief can trigger us at any time, and it could be days, weeks, months or even years after a loss, before the emotional impact of that loss hits us, and this can feel like a bolt out of the blue.
Grief is a natural process, and you are not alone.
Read Orla’s “My Experience” story about the loss of her sister, how it affected her and how she learned to cope with her grief.