Experiences of Grief

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What am I feeling?

The experience of grief, following any loss, is a very human response, and your thoughts and feelings may feel complicated and confusing, fluctuating from one moment to the next. There may be times, when you feel sad, disappointed, confused, with none of it making any sense. There may be other times, perhaps the next hour, the same day or sometime after, when you feel numb, exhausted, unable to concentrate and still other times when you feel angry, fearful or a gamut of other feelings, thoughts or sensations.

The important point is that everyone has individual and often private response to any grief and loss experience. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and because everyone experiences grief and loss differently, it can make it very unfamiliar. At times your thoughts and responses about what has happened may not make sense, and this may feel confusing and overwhelming.  However, over time these thoughts and feelings will lessen and become more manageable.

Try not to push these thoughts and feelings down, sharing your experience with someone you trust can help to reduce the intensity of these distressing thoughts and feelings over time.  You might find it helpful to ring us at GriefLine, on our national toll-free number.  One of our trained and caring counsellors will work with you on your experience of grief and loss.  Or tap into the Griefline online forums for peer to peer support and understanding.

This is so unexpected

There may be times where you have unexpectedly experienced grief or loss, and your feelings or thoughts are intrinsically linked to the unforeseen nature of the loss. At times, it may feel like you are on a roller coaster ride. Shock, feeling numb, overwhelm and not knowing what to do are common and normal responses to a loss that was not anticipated. You may also find yourself very distressed, crying uncontrollably, unable to sleep, sleeping poorly or sleeping more than you would normally. Again, these responses are a very human and normal response to an unexpected grief and loss experience.

Sharing your unexpected grief with someone you trust may help ease your feelings’ intensity and reduce your focus on distressing thoughts. You can contact GriefLine 7 days a week to speak with a telephone counsellor or tap into the Griefline online forums for peer to peer support and understanding.

I expected this but it feels so different to what I thought

When you expect a situation to result in an experience of grief or loss such as the death of a chronically ill loved one, or the demise of a relationship you may have been anticipating a range of feelings and thoughts. When you experience the loss or grief, your feelings and thoughts are very different from what you had expected. This can be a confusing situation.

For some people, anticipating a loss and resulting grief, may provoke mourning in advance of it occurring. A need to prepare and make sense of the loss, in all its complexity is a very normal and human response.   It can result in very similar feelings and thoughts to when the loss does occur.  For others, the impending loss gives them a sense of relief and permission to think about making changes or moving beyond the loss. Through planning and preparation, some people allow themselves to make sense of the loss and resolve things. Again, these are very natural and normal responses.

Like other experiences of loss, many people find it useful to talk with a trusted friend, colleague or family member and you can ontact GriefLine on the national toll-free number to discuss your experiences with a volunteer counsellor.  Or tap into the Griefline online forums for peer to peer support and understanding.

I thought I would feel fine because I had made rational sense about all of it and now that it has happened, it feels so different.

Trying to make sense of an expected loss and the grief that may accompany it is a normal response to something that may feel initially overwhelming and does not make sense. Your mind and body are attempting to make some logic of a situation, which is completely out of the ordinary. This may be useful and provide support and comfort during that time. Once the loss has occurred, the way you have made sense of this situation may continue to support and comfort you through the feelings and thoughts, which occur following the loss. However, for other people, their feelings and thoughts may differ to what they had prepared themselves for.

This difference may result in a range of unexpected emotions, thoughts and/or sensations. Some people may experience exhaustion, headaches, muscle tension, cramping, stomach upset, palpitations, feeling like their thoughts are scrambled, that they are unable to make decisions and/or feeling empty or lost. The experience of shock – and the difference between the thoughts you had put in place prior to the loss and what you may be experiencing now the loss has occurred, is a very normal and natural response. Everyone is unique in how long it takes to readjust feelings and thoughts to the loss and grief you are experiencing. For some people, it may take a couple of hours, for others, a week, for others, it may take longer.  There is no formula as everyone is different and makes sense of the loss in their own particular way.

You may be able to work through these thoughts and feelings yourself but for most people, it helps to share your experiences with a friend, colleague or family member.  You can also contact GriefLine to speak to a trained and caring volunteer.  Or tap into the Griefline online forums for peer to peer support and understanding.

I just can’t stop thinking about what happened and it has been months now.

Some people may find that they continue to focus on the loss and all the reminders attached to the loss for weeks or months following the loss, without any decrease or change in the focus, pain, grief or the intensity of the loss. They may find that it fills much of their day, with them going over and over what has happened and with the feelings and thoughts remaining powerful and dominating their life. The person may feel like they are stuck on a treadmill, unable to change what is occurring and feeling like they are unable to make sense of what has occurred. They may also feel increasingly isolated and may experience depressive and anxiety symptoms, they may feel worried about the future, avoid situations or reminders of what has occurred. They may find it very hard to regulate their emotions, feeling a roller coaster of different intensive emotions and thoughts.

Speaking with a trusted friend, family member or colleague who understands may be helpful, especially if the person feels like they are continuing to socially withdraw. Plan to contact the GP for a referral for psychological support to work through what is occurring. During this time, the person may find it useful to focus on their existing strengths and capacities (on the things that have worked for them and they have achieved in the past) and to take steps to practice ways of focusing on eating regularly and healthily, going to bed at the same time every night, not having alcohol just prior to going to bed, or eating any high sugar foods or heavy meals prior to bed and focusing on doing something active, even beginning with a walk for five minutes and increasing this by one minute every day.

GriefLine can also assist you in managing your thoughts or feelings.  You can contact GriefLine on the toll-free number to speak with a volunteer counsellor for extra support.  Or tap into the Griefline online forums for peer to peer support and understanding.

Things feel better now

Your feelings have started to change and increasingly what has happened has started to make more sense or is not having the same confusing and overwhelming impact. You find that you are able to engage more meaningfully with work, activities and relationships and are less distracted.

There are times when you still may think about the loss and the associated grief, which is completely natural. You come to realise that it does not affect you in the same way as when you first experienced the loss and associated grief. You come to recognise that there are more days when you are engaged with the world and re-engaged with friends, family, colleagues and activities, which you have enjoyed in the past.

There may be periods of time or a particularly meaningful day or month when feelings of loss may re-develop due to anniversaries. This is very common and natural and it does pass with time.

GriefLine provides anonymous and confidential telephone support. Please call the the GriefLine Helpline in your local state.