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Coping with the Loss of a Loved One

People experience loss in different ways and many varied thoughts and emotions are likely to come up for you.
Coping with Loss

Your thoughts and emotions might be unfamiliar to you, and they may be intense and overwhelming. In this instance, maintaining a routine is very important. Eating regularly and healthily, engaging in an activity you have enjoyed in the past, going to bed at your usual time, and remaining connected to supportive friends and family all have a positive effect on what you are experiencing.

It can be tempting to use legal and illicit substances, including alcohol and prescription drugs to cover up the overwhelming thoughts and feelings.  However, by blocking our emotions in this way, we often end up feeling even more anxious. That’s why limiting alcohol, or illicit drug intake is very important.  Instead, try to maintain your routines and know that these difficult thoughts and feelings will become more manageable over time.

Getting support for grief and loss

Whatever stage you are at in the grief process, whether it has just occurred or whether an anniversary has triggered these thoughts and emotions to re-emerge, you can contact the GriefLine Helpline. One of our trained and skilled volunteers will be pleased to speak with you. The Griefline online forums are also a caring and supportive space.

I feel shocked and numb. Why is that?

Many people experience emotional numbness after a loss.  At a time when you expect to feel pain and distress, a feeling of nothingness can leave you feeling disoriented and confused. Worse still, you might feel a sense of guilt at your lack of emotions. It’s important to understand that numbness is a natural reaction to loss and does not reflect your attachment to the one who has passed. Your feelings will return over time, so be kind to yourself and be prepared for how intense they may be when they re-emerge.

When we are feeling numb, we often neglect ourselves and focus instead on other people’s grief.  However, this is an important time to practice self-care and develop good coping skills and routines. Take a look at the EAST approach below for self-care tips.

I feel overpowering emotions and physically unwell. What can I do?

When we’re experiencing intense emotions such as fear, anger or sadness, we may encounter physical sensations alongside them. Often, our body will respond to an emotion with a specific response such as feeling nauseous, jittery, heavy in the chest, hot, cold or clammy. 

At times, this can be a frightening experience, so it might be reassuring to know that this is our body’s way of helping us identify our feelings. 

You might like to try naming and staying with the feelings even if only for a brief time, as this can give you a sense of relief and a feeling of competency to deal with the emotions.  It also helps to know that your emotions and reactions will soften and become much more bearable.

I feel empty at times – what helps with that?

When a person experiences a loss, it can seem as though there’s a hole in their life. There may be changes in routines, relationships, living arrangements, finances, etc., causing gaps that weren’t previously there. Feelings of emptiness are very common and natural at a time of change and loss such as this, but over time, these feelings and thoughts will lessen.

When we’re feeling empty, it often helps to re-engage with the things that brought you meaning and enjoyment in the past. Whether it be taking a walk, exercising, getting out in nature, connecting with friends or community groups, engaging in your hobbies, whatever feels right for you. Doing so will help you to reconnect with the parts of yourself that know what it is to feel happy, relaxed and content.

The E.A.S.T. approach

The E.A.S.T. self-care guide offers a pathway to re-establishing healthy and positive routines, fostering a sense of balance, well-being, and mental resilience during times of grief. 

The key to this approach is consistency. By committing to these steps each day for a week, you may notice positive changes unfolding in your life. With time, these practices can lead to shifts in your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. 

Eating: Maintain a regular eating schedule, prioritising nutritious meals and staying hydrated. It’s also a good idea to limit your consumption of sugar, alcohol and caffeine – especially before bedtime.

Activities: Revisit activities you once enjoyed before this loss, including some light exercise such as walking or yoga.

Sleeping: Establish a consistent bedtime routine and consider incorporating calming activities such as reading or listening to soothing music.

Time: Make space in your schedule for social connections and activities that bring you happiness.

Want some more tips to support your well-being while grieving? Check out our resource A gentle guide to self-care after loss: The E.A.S.T. approach.

Related resources

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Call our helpline between the hours of 8am and 8pm, 7 days a week (AEST/AEDT), or request a callback at a time that suits you.

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