At some point in our lives, we will all experience grief and loss in our lives. To mourn loss is a natural human reaction and one that should be embraced as part of the grieving process.
Psychiatry practice has studied grief for decades and has identified common stages, and the prevalent impacts that loss can have on an individual. It's important to note that there is no 'right way' to grieve, and everyone is going to react differently to loss.
What to Expect
You've likely heard of the five stages of grieving:
Individuals typically experience these stages in a linear format, and each one can be a difficult experience.
Some additional emotions that are common to feel during the mourning process include disbelief, confusion, shock sadness, yearning, humiliation, despair, and guilt.
Grief can impact everyone differently, and some people permanently change from the losses they experience. While you may never fully recover, most people don't feel the pains of loss as intensely with time. However, some individuals experience a form of grief called 'complicated grief' or unresolved grief.
Approximately 15% of people that lose a loved one will experience complicated grief. An individual is thought to be enduring complicated grief when a year has passed since their loss, and they still feel the emotions of grief just as intensely as the first day of their loss. This condition can lead to additional mental health complications such as major depressive disorder (MDD), anxiety disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How to Heal
As grief is experienced differently by everyone, people will have different routes in their healing process. However, it's important to remember several tips:
Understand that grief is normal
Any time an individual is experiencing intense emotional pain, it can feel that you're crazy or you can put pressures on yourself that you aren't handling the loss the way you're supposed to. There is no right way to react to the loss but make sure you allow yourself to react in any way that you feel is necessary (as long as it doesn't harm you or others).
Allow yourself to experience the loss
It can be tempting to avoid the intense grief you're feeling, and some individuals may try to 'push through the pain.' Ignoring the loss is just delaying the healing process. Take a break and give yourself some time to experience your grief.
Accept the reality of the loss
It's not encouraged to hide in a mental space of daydreaming of how things could be different or wishing to turn back time. You can't change things, so it's important to focus on the present and the future.
Work through the pain and grief
Ask for support. Reach out to others who have been impacted by the loss to ask them for help and to understand how they are coping. Perhaps you can all be there for each other and celebrate the life that you're mourning. Additionally, it's generally recommended to get professional help if possible. You can visit your regular therapist or make an appointment with a grief counselor that specializes in assisting people through their healing process.
Eventually, you will move past your grief. The most important steps you can take is to embrace the grief process, ensure you start healing, take care of yourself, and create a support system.