Grief and a Loss – How to Cope

Grief is a natural response to losing someone or something that’s important to you. You may feel a variety of emotions, like sadness or loneliness. And you might experience it for a number of different reasons. Perhaps a loved one has died, a relationship ended, or you lost your job. Other life changes, like chronic illness or a move to a new home, can also lead to grief.

Grieving is a highly individual experience; there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and how significant the loss was to you.

Inevitably, the grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.

While loss affects people in different ways, many of us experience the following symptoms when we’re grieving. Just remember that almost anything that you experience in the early stages of grief is normal—including feeling like you’re going crazy, feeling like you’re in a bad dream, or questioning your religious or spiritual beliefs.

Shock and disbelief – Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened, or even deny the truth. If someone you love has died, you may keep expecting them to show up, even though you know they’re gone.

Sadness – Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness. You may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.

Guilt – You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings (e.g. feeling relieved when the person died after a long, difficult illness). After a death, you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more you could have done.

Anger – Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.

Fear – A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. You may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.

Physical symptoms – We often think of grief as a strictly emotional process, but grief often involves physical problems, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains, and insomnia.

Sometimes the feelings of grief linger and it becomes difficult to move past your feelings of sadness. Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy as they share many symptoms, but there are ways to tell the difference. Remember, grief can be a roller coaster. It involves a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even when you’re in the middle of the grieving process, you will still have moments of pleasure or happiness. With depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant.

Other symptoms that suggest depression, not just grief, include:

Intense, pervasive sense of guilt
Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
Inability to function at work, home, and/or school

If you find that you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it might be time to reach out for help from a professional therapist or grief support group. Here are some national resources, but you might also search for resources that are available in your area.

 
Compassionate Friends – National, self-help organization for those grieving the loss of a child. Includes a Chapter Locator for finding support in the U.S. and International Support for finding help in other countries. (The Compassionate Friends)

 

GriefNet.org – Online support community for people dealing with grief, death, and major loss, with over fifty monitored support groups for both kids and adults. (GriefNet.org)

The Winter Blues: Top 10 Tips for Getting Through the Darkest Months

image

 

Winter got you down? If so, you are certainly not alone. As we switch over to Daylight Savings Time it bring us less sunlight, frigid temperatures and often a sense of accompanying lethargy and apathy.

 

Here’s a list of “Top Ten” ways to help improve your mood and energy level during the winter:
Acknowledge that you feel blue. 
So often we try to deny what we feel because we don’t want to burden others. Admitting you feel down can sometimes lead to feelings of vulnerability and self-doubt. However, when we acknowledge our feelings, it creates an opening for us to let the feeling pass instead of working so hard to push it away. Processing our feelings can also help you to feel less isolated.

Move your body. 
You don’t have to run a marathon or take a spin class to feel the benefit. Take a short walk around the block, vacuum or pick up around the house or just practice some gentle stretching. Any type of movement can have a positive effect on mood and energy levels.
Take in something beautiful everyday. 
It may be the color of the sunset, a picture on your computer, a beautiful poem or quote, a favorite soft blanket. Appealing to our senses counteracts feelings of numbness or apathy we often have during the dark winter months. Take time to notice what feels beautiful about your space and appreciate it.
Light Therapy. 
Seasonal Affective Disorder affects as many as one-third of the population and impacts women twice as often as men. While there is an initial expense in the purchase of the light, daily use has shown to provide a significant improvement in mood.

Laugh! 
Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine and increases the level of endorphins in the body. So watch a favorite comedy that gets you every time, no matter how many times you’ve seen it!
Volunteer. 
Research shows that even a small commitment to a cause leads to feelings of worthiness and improved self-esteem. In addition, the social connection is a great antidote to the isolation many of us experience in the winter months. So go ahead, offer to read to children at a local school or sign up for a park clean-up day. If you’re feeling more ambitious, help organize a neighborhood food drive!
Practice meditation. 
The beauty of this age-old practice is that it can be practiced anytime or anywhere. Today there are many opportunities to learn how to meditate including local classes or c.d.’s that can be downloaded straight to your MP3 player. The Johnson County and KCMO public libraries also have meditation classes on CD’s and DVD’s to check out.

Do something nice for yourself.  Get a massage, take yourself to the movies or buy yourself some flowers. Cultivating love for yourself is a sure fire way to create openness to your spouse, partner or a love interest you haven’t even met! No matter where your love life is, remember that a solid relationship starts from the relationship you share with yourself.

Eat more foods with Omega-3 fatty acids. 
There is a host of evidence that increasing intake of these essential oils found in fish such as salmon and tuna can result in improved mood, concentration and energy. Omega 3 fatty acids also benefit cardiac health and decrease inflammation. If you’re not a fish lover, try walnuts, beans, olive oil or winter squash.
Seek professional help if necessary. 
Clinical depression is more than a case of the blues. If you suspect you are suffering from a clinical depression seek help. Often learning the strategies to help combat the signs and symptoms of depression can go a long way in treating it.