“Grief is a natural response to loss. It might be the loss of a loved one, relationship, pregnancy, pet, job or way of life. Other experiences of loss may be due to children leaving home, infertility and separation from friends and family. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be.
Grief is expressed in many ways and it can affect every part of your life; your emotions, thoughts and behaviour, beliefs, physical health, your sense of self and identity, and your relationships with others.” – Beyond Blue
Someone in my family passed away very recently.
I’d like to share some of the things I’ve noticed about grief.
Grief Is a Strange Creature
Grief may affect you in many complicated and surprising ways.
• It can leave you feeling exhausted.
• You may notice it effects you physically – for example, head aches, stomach aches, or pain in your neck or back.
• You may be fine one day, then cry easily and unexpectedly the next.
• You may sleep more, or much less.
• You may find yourself laughing ‘inappropriately’.
• It can be difficult to believe the person is no longer here.
• You may feel guilty about things that are out of your control.
• You may find yourself in tears at the sight of an empty chair, or from a song playing in the supermarket.
• You may regret that you didn’t do or say more.
• Or maybe you regret some of the things you did do or say.
• You may feel relieved.
• Or irritable.
• Or anxious.
• You might find it difficult to concentrate.
• Motivation can also be low.
• You may feel very depressed.
• Or numb.
• Or angry.
• You may find it unbelievable that the rest of the world is still going about its business.
• Or that the sun is still shining.
Everyone is Different
We all grieve differently.
• You may be a big, public crier and sharer.
• Or you may find it very difficult to allow yourself to cry or show your emotions.
• You may need lots of alone time, or lots of people time.
• You may fall in a heap for weeks, or you may become super busy and productive.
You do you.
The Importance of Ceremony
Ceremony and ritual around death are found in all cultures. Over the years, I’ve attended a Buddhist funeral in Thailand, numerous Aboriginal funerals in Northern Australia, and many English-heritage funerals. They have varied vastly in the expression of grief and in the way ceremony has been conducted.
The healing and letting go process can be greatly enhanced by using both ceremony and ritualised activities to remember and honour the person and to say good bye.
The most obvious of these is a funeral service and wake, however, there are many personal ways you may choose to say your own goodbye.
Some examples of using ritual and ceremony are:
• Throwing flowers into the river or ocean.
• Sharing stories of the person.
• Lighting candles.
• Creating a photo album or memory box.
• Planting something in their honour.
• Listening to their favourite music.
• Treasuring an item of theirs, such as a piece of jewellery or clothing.
• Creating something – such as a painting, song or sculpture.
• Write them a letter, sharing all the things you’d like them to know.
Find Ways to Look After Yourself
If you find you are resisting your grief, pushing it away, or giving yourself a hard time for being upset, imagine how you would respond to a good friend in your situation. What would you want for them? What would you say to them? Try to give this to yourself. Rather than getting upset with yourself for feeling awful, try giving yourself the love and care you’d give a dear friend.
Finding your new normal can be incredibly difficult. It also takes time.
Expect Less. Do Less
Lower your expectations of what you are capable of at the moment. You’re grieving. Give yourself a break.
Locate the Grief in Your Body
To do this, stop and take some nice, long, slow deep breaths. Notice where in your body you feel your grief. In your throat? Your chest? Stomach? In the aching of your whole body?
Notice the quality of the feelings in your body. Do they feel heavy? Tight? Churning? Notice what’s there.
Breathe into these tender places. Allow them to be there. Know that you are feeling what you are meant to feel. Be gentle and kind toward yourself.
Get Loud and Physical
Another way to honour how you feel and to express high emotions, can be to get loud and physical.
• Punch some pillows.
• Tear up paper.
• Yell and scream – into a cushion, or in the shower or the car can be good places to make noise with privacy.
• Dance, run or swim.
• Sing or chant.
Reach In and Out
Both reaching inward to self, and outward to others are both important ways to support yourself during grief.
Grief is a normal and healthy reaction to loss. It can often be incredibly painful.
If you feel you are not coping, please seek support. Seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist can help you to process your feelings and make sense of what you’re going through. You don’t have to do it alone. There is nothing wrong with you if you need help.
About Toni Jackson
Toni is a women’s Psychotherapist who specialises in body image and trauma. Many women seek therapy with Toni due to experiencing: anxiety, depression, low self-worth and eating disorders. Toni uses self-compassion, mindfulness, body awareness, HAES, feminism, trauma therapy, gestalt therapy and art therapy in her practice.
Toni is a Psychotherapist and Counsellor in Fremantle, Western Australia. She also works in Mundaring, Perth, Western Australia, and provides Online Video Counselling sessions to urban and remote women around the world.
More information about how Toni works can be found here.
To Book an Appointment with Toni Jackson
If you would like to book an appointment, please contact Toni Jackson.
Phone: 0439 995 302 (Australia only for phone calls)
Or fill out the contact form here.
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