Grief is a natural and complex emotional response to loss, often involving feelings of sadness, confusion, or even anger. It can be difficult and unfortunately something we will all experience at some point in our lives. It can be triggered by various experiences, such as the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a significant life change. People may cope with grief in different ways, and it’s a process that takes time and varies from person to person. There’s no one way to grieve and there is nothing that can prepare you for it either.
What causes grief?
The causes of grief are often linked to significant losses in life. Common triggers include the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or marriage, major life changes like relocation or retirement, loss of a job, or even the diagnosis of a serious illness. Essentially, any situation that disrupts a person’s sense of normalcy or connection can lead to feelings of grief.
What are the symptoms of grief?
Grief can manifest in various emotional, physical, and behavioural symptoms. We can experience all of them or none of them; there is no right or wrong way to feel after a loss. Emotional symptoms may include sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, or a sense of numbness. Physical symptoms can range from fatigue and changes in appetite to sleep disturbances. Behavioural symptoms might involve withdrawing from others, difficulty concentrating, or questioning the meaning of life. It’s important to note that grief is a highly individual experience, and people may exhibit a combination of these symptoms in different ways and at different intensities.
There is a large body of research that suggests that perhaps we grieve in cycles or stages. Different research studies describe the stages of grief in different ways, but the most common stages are.
– Denial– feelings of disbelief and shock
– Anger– perhaps blame towards self or others
– Depression– feelings of hopelessness, feelings of isolation
– Bargaining – guilt associated with thoughts of doing more
– Acceptance – acknowledgement of the loss and driving thoughts towards the new circumstances
These stages do not appear in the same order for everyone, and some may fluctuate between them during their mourning.
Managing grief involves acknowledging and expressing your emotions. It’s important to give yourself time and space to grieve. Understanding that grief is a process with ups and downs can be crucial, and it’s okay to ask for help when needed. Everyone copes differently, so finding what works best for you is key to managing grief.
Seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional can be beneficial. As challenging as it may feel establishing routines, taking care of your physical health, and engaging in activities that bring comfort can also help.
Reaching out and speaking about how you’re feeling is a way to cope.
You can speak to friends or family members who are supportive and understanding. Additionally, seeking help from a mental health professional, such as a counsellor, therapist, or grief support group, can provide a structured and confidential space to express your feelings and receive guidance. Many communities also have organisations specifically dedicated to grief support. Don’t hesitate to reach out to those around you or professionals who specialize in helping people navigate through the challenges of grief.
Some find it helpful to reach out to their GP if they are experiencing issues with sleep.
Talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is also an option.
Birthdays, holidays are never quite the same when we lose someone; an empty seat at the table can be that reminder that our lives have changed forever. In these moments it can be helpful to focus on the happier moments that we shared with those we have lost.
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Dr. Ravi Gill
Dr Ravi Gill is a Health Psychologist, registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and a Chartered Member of the British Psychological Society (BPS). After completing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology Ravi went on to complete a masters in Psychology Health and Behaviour, a further Masters specialising in Health Psychology and completed the Professional Doctorate Programme in Health Psychology.
After completing her Doctorate, Ravi worked in the private sector carrying out specialist assessments and evidence-based psychological therapy to adults living with a mental health diagnosis and presenting with a range of comorbidities (e.g. anxiety/depression and/or physical health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, Parkinson’s) to help them progress from high intense living towards step down living. Ravi has worked in the field of mental health since 2011 and has experience working with patients with complex mental health difficulties such as paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and psychosis as well as relational problems such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Ravi is an experienced clinician, having worked with a variety of client groups including early intervention services, adult mental health and older adults in both the private sector and the NHS. Ravi has special interests in working with people with a dual diagnosis of mental health and physical health complexities. She has designed and delivered interventions to professionals to help improve physical health outcomes of those with a mental health diagnosis.
Ravi currently works within the private sector within Occupational Health Services for the Metropolitan Police Service. The main focus is around treating trauma and Ravi contributed to the development of a psychological monitoring programme for officers in high-risk roles; this programme provides regular wellbeing checks to ensure the their job role is not having a negative impact on their mental health. This programme also helps to identify early risk factors associated with a trauma presentation.