Coping with loss
People experience loss in different ways and many varied thoughts and emotions are likely to come up for you.
I need help with my thoughts and emotions
People experience loss in many different ways. Whether it is sudden and unexpected or had been anticipated, many varied thoughts and emotions are likely to come up for you. These thoughts and feelings may be very different from what you had expected, even when you thought you were prepared. It may seem as though nothing is making sense, leaving you in a state of confusion and sometimes shock.
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, 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.
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 volunteer counsellors 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 over time.
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 our 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 re-connect with the parts of yourself that know what it is to feel happy, relaxed and content.
The EAST approach
Eating: ensure you eat regularly and healthily, increase your water intake during the day and limit alcohol and other illicit drugs.
Activities: restart activities, which you enjoyed before this loss, including some type of exercise.
Sleeping: ensure that you go to bed at a regular time every night (your preferred time before the loss) and avoid consuming sugary foods, a large meal or alcohol/illicit drugs at least two hours before sleep.
Time: spend time with trusted friends and family and consider reaching out to a counsellor or the Griefline helpline service to work with you on your experience of loss. The Griefline online forums are also a caring and supportive space.