When a person experiences a loss in life, the emotional response is grief. This loss could be any number of things such as losing a job or personal financial stability, finding out you have a health issue that affects your life such as cancer, the end of a personal relationship such as divorce, death of a loved one or the loss of a pet. Experiencing any level of loss could lead to grief.

Key takeaways:
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    Grief can manifest itself in many ways and is often different for everyone.
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    A grieving person may feel shock, sadness, guilt, and anger.
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    The Kubler-Ross “five stages of grief” model includes feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
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    Tips for dealing with grief range from finding a support person to not ignoring your grief and emotions, finding distractions and the knowledge that grief may come back at times.

Grief can manifest itself in many ways and is often different for everyone.

Initially, shock may occur. The loss of a job or a loved one often unexpectedly occurs without warning. This makes the loss difficult to accept and potentially leads to denial of the loss and self-isolation from others.

Sadness often follows the loss. At times this sadness can cause you to be overwhelmed and lead to fatigue, lack of appetite, insomnia, and even manifest as physical symptoms such as body aches or nausea.

Feelings of guilt can occur. This may make you feel that the loss could have been prevented. You may review what you may have done to cause it, or things you could have done differently before the loss to improve the outcome.

Anger often occurs. Often the loss may seem like it was not your fault or was not preventable. These feelings may cause you to be angry with yourself or it may be directed toward others. This anger could also lead to aggressive verbal and physical outbursts.

How a person experiences grief is a very individual reaction and can be overwhelming. The grief process after a loss often occurs in stages.

Stages of grief

The Kubler-Ross “five stages of grief” model was based on patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses but is often seen in other types of loss. Knowing and recognizing the stages will help better prepare you for coping with grief.

These include:

  • Denial. You may feel that this can’t happen or is a mistake.
  • Anger. Placing blame for the situation on others, wondering why it is happening.
  • Bargaining. Often, this is looking towards a higher power and asking them to resolve the loss.
  • Depression. Sadness sweeps over you, often overwhelming.
  • Acceptance. You accept the situation and begin to cope with the loss.

The five stages are not a rigid pathway but a guide to potential feelings. Not every person grieves the same, and not everyone goes through all phases of grief. Some people experience only a few phases, while others may pass through a phase only to revisit it during the grieving process.

  • Find a supporting person who can help guide you through your grief. This may be a friend, a loved one, a professional counselor, or a support group. This person may have already experienced a similar loss and understands your feelings. Sometimes, someone who has not experienced a similar loss could help process your grief.
  • Do not ignore your grief. This could lead to severe depression and impact you deeper for a longer period of time. Recognize the loss and accept it so that you can properly grieve.
  • You may feel a wave of emotions. At times you may cry, while other times, a feeling of happiness can manifest while reminiscing. Understand that your feelings are normal and can last a long time. It is okay to seek professional help to try and cope with the loss.
  • Loneliness can occur. The feeling that others will not understand your loss can develop. It is important not to become isolated from others. A support group may help you process the loss and help you grieve.
  • Try to rest. Grief is exhausting and can take a toll on you mentally and physically. Ensure you take time to rest.
  • Stay active. Regular activity helps to keep your mind and body stimulated, reducing the feelings of grief. Even just walking daily will help reduce the feelings of grief.
  • Maintaining good nutrition will help the body and mind stay healthy. Even if you don’t feel like eating, small meals can keep you going and reduce the feelings of grief. If nausea is an issue, speak with a healthcare provider to help reduce the episodes.
  • Do not make big decisions when grieving. Often our mindset is not prepared to make proper decisions that can impact our life after a loss.
  • Maintain a schedule and set goals that are small and attainable. A daily schedule will help you maintain regular daily activities through your grief. Small goals, when achieved, will give you a sense of accomplishment, helping the grieving process.
  • Distractions such as being around friends or going on a trip can be helpful during the grieving process. This will allow for a mental break from the emotions you’re feeling and help the body and mind to recover from the stress of loss.
  • There is no timeframe for grief to subside. It could last months or years. Understanding that this is a process and staying aware of your emotions.
  • Grief may come back at times. The resurgence of grief is often triggered by an emotional event or even a subtle moment that reminds you of the loss. This can occur even years after the loss.

Loss and grief occur for everyone at some point in their life. How we recognize the loss and begin to deal with our grief is unique to each person and could be different for each situation of loss. It is important to be mindful of our feelings and how they impact our lives. Obtaining support through the grieving process will lessen the impact and aid healing. If your grief worsens, you may need to seek professional help through a counselor or other mental health professional.

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