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Coping with Grief

The beginning of December, 2nd to 8th, is ‘National Grief Awareness Week’.


Throughout the latter part of the autumn months as we wrap up warm and tiptoe into

winter, we ‘societally’ look forward to festive celebrations. We spend our time preparing for,

and enjoying (or not), the various events and gatherings that are on offer throughout

November and December in the lead up to the big event…….. Christmas Day!


However, for some, this can be a difficult time of year, especially if you are missing loved

ones. December and all that it brings with it; for example, socialising, family gatherings, the

end of a year and start of a new one, ‘ring out the old and bring in the new’, can feel

particularly daunting, if not distressing, if you are experiencing sadness and loss. This might

be the loss of a person, relationship, pet, job, or even the loss of self and identity. It could

even be the loss of connection and attachment to ‘normal’ routines over the festive period.


Struggling to ‘put on a brave face’ when we are grieving or experiencing a sense of loss,

takes huge amounts of energy and the effort of it, can feel isolating and lonely.


Although, in theory, there are different stages of grief, we may not experience them all, and

the process doesn’t have to be linear. Just as we are different to each other, so is the way

that we grieve. This can sometimes be difficult to understand for those around us who are

trying to support us through difficult times. Grief can feel debilitating, and it can be difficult

to accept that it is a healthy and adaptive process of healing; it is the natural reaction to loss.

It is the body and minds way of healing wounds caused by a loss of something precious.



Grief can present itself as a lot of different emotions and it’s important to acknowledge that

the cycle/stages of grief and how the person responds to it is unique and personal; it can be

linear, backwards and forwards and you can return to stages you thought you had ‘got

through’. The mental, physical and emotional response is one of many different reactions in

our mental and physical states.


Essentially, when we are struck by grief, we are experiencing a loss that involves change. As

we move into and through the grieving process we are attempting to adapt or become used

to new circumstances that we find ourselves in. Reactions to this, might present as anger,guilt, anxiety, stress, sadness and despair, disturbed or irregular sleeping patterns, changes

in appetite; eating more or less, health issues, tiredness and fatigue, low immune

functioning and pre-existing flare ups.


Social reactions may include having no interest in socialising, inability to talk about feelings

or talking constantly about the person or thing we’ve lost. Emotionally, we may present out

of character and have angry outbursts or dissolve in floods of tears, for what appears to be

for no reason; all of which are normal symptoms as part of the grief process. ‘Grief will

happen either as an open healing wound or as a closed festering wound, either honestly or

dishonestly, either appropriately or inappropriately’ (E. Kubler-Ross).


Despite the impact of loss, as we experience and process the stages of grief we can become

“us” again. Grief does not leave a person, but the person reacts to the change whilst

absorbing the world around them and therefore the effect of the grief becomes less of an

impact than it did initially.


So how do you manage the grieving process?


First and foremost, be kind to yourself and know that whatever time you need, and how you

work through it, is right for you.


If you feel unable to cope on your own, reach out, there is help at hand. There is a range of

different support that can be accessed, including bereavement counselling.


Counselling after a loss can be hugely beneficial. You can explore emotions surrounding your

loss and learn healthy coping mechanisms. This may help to prevent negative thoughts

forming a strong hold. Therapy sessions can help to understand and accept the reality of the

loss, work through the pain and grief, help to adjust to an environment in which the

deceased is missing, and find a personal and meaningful connection with the deceased

while embarking on a new life.


Talking about your grief and allowing yourself to cry can help prevent you from getting stuck

in your sadness. As painful as it is, trust that in most cases your pain will start to lift if you

allow yourself to feel it.


Support from family members, friends and social support groups are all good options to help

you through your grief.


In order to grieve in a healthy way, we need to both spend time grieving for the person and

somehow continue to live and to function.


“You cannot prevent the birds from sorrow flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair” - Chinese proverb

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