We all face grief and loss from a variety of perspectives throughout life. It may be the loss of a friend who moves away, the loss of a family member or pet, or the loss of our identity when we face a major health diagnosis or change in how we view ourselves. We may feel grief at children growing up or at retirement – times when most people believe we are likely celebrating and enjoying the transition. Grief and loss are part of trauma, as well.
Feelings related to loss and grief include sadness, hopelessness, irritability, or numbness. We may experience somatic symptoms in our bodies and lack energy. We can isolate and avoid others or throw ourselves into activities to avoid dealing with strong feelings. Each person who experiences a loss or feels grief may have a different reaction.
Often, we do not know how to ask for help and may feel like we do not even know what we need or could help. Well-meaning others offer what they believe are expressions of condolences to bring comfort, and these statements may miss the mark or can make us feel worse. People aren’t sure what to say, so they say whatever seems like it might help. Therapy can help you increase your ability to cope, process feelings, and explore the range of emotions.
Your religious and spiritual beliefs and customs of your culture and family come to bear on how you view grief and loss. This can sometimes help bring comfort or contributes to feelings of alienation and disconnection due to the type of loss you experience. You can feel isolated from your community, too, if the death or loss is stigmatized such as losing a loved from due to overdose or suicide.
The range of emotions people feel include sadness with tearfulness, despair, and a feeling of being entirely alone. People can feel shocked at the loss and struggle to come to believe it especially in the immediate aftermath of a sudden death or loss. Guilt and anger are common, as well, and people can be confused at feeling guilty over something about which they had no control or guilt may be due to feeling angry at a person for dying (in the case of loss related to death). You may also be fearful of how life will be in the future with much seeming uncertain. Feeling tired, nauseous, and sleep struggles are all normal possibilities. Some people overeat and others experience weight loss due to lack of appetite.
Help and healing are possible. The first step on the path to managing grief and loss is to seek support.