Research shows that most people have the ability to recover from loss on their own. It might be one of the toughest challenges that people face, but when given enough time, everyone can heal.
There’s no right or wrong way to grief. There’s no standard length, timetable, or process of grieving that would apply to everyone. How you grieve depends on many factors, like your coping mechanisms, personality, experiences, and your relationship with the person you’ve lost. You may experience all kinds of emotions, feelings, thoughts. It can be overwhelming. You may feel anger, sadness, guilt; you may cry, scream, run, work. You may experience it all. These are all normal reactions to loss.
Swiss psychologist Verena Kast introduced the so-called phases of mourning. However, not all people who experience loss go through all the stages or go through them in the same order. Sometimes you just jump from one to another. Nonetheless, knowing these stages may help you understand that what you’re going through is a valid, normal, and natural reaction.
1. Phase of denial
“It can’t be real.” “I cannot believe it.” In this phase, which is typical for the first hours or days, feelings are numb, and sometimes people are restless.
Here the realization that a shared experience of the world is no longer possible and that a new relationship to the world must be created, and the role of the lost one will be completely different.
2. Phase of erupting emotions
Many feelings and emotions emerge, they tend to change quickly or occur together, feelings like hurt, anger, anxiety, fear, rage, guilt, unease, or even happiness. Also, the experience is heavily influenced by the nature of the relationship between the grieving and the lost one, and that’s something only the grieving person knows, so no one really knows how you should or shouldn’t feel.
3. Phase of searching, finding, and separating
Thinking, remembering, fantasies, dreams about the lost one, dealing with unresolved problems. Over time, the grieving person learns how the world has changed and evaluates what the lost one brought to their life and what stays the same even though the person is no longer in it with them.
4. Phase of accepting a new relation to self and world
The loss is accepted. New relationships, new roles, new lifestyles become possible in this period of mourning.
Although there is no right way to cope with loss, there are some tips that could help you process and overcome grieving:
Accept your feelings
We write about it all the time. It’s important to accept all the feelings that may come and go. At the time of coping with loss, it’s even more important than ever. Acknowledging and accepting your emotions usually reduces their power, rather than denying or blocking them.
If you need it, find a way to say goodbye to the lost one.
Sometimes you don’t get the chance to say goodbye or to resolve unresolved problems. Sometimes going to a funeral isn’t enough, or you aren’t ready to say goodbye just yet. In cases like these, it can be helpful to find your own private way, your ritual to say goodbye. It all depends on you, your preferences, your creativity, and the relationship you had with the person. Sometimes writing a letter or a note, lighting a candle, going to a place where you enjoyed time together, or playing some music may help you cope with the loss and say goodbye.
Don‘t forget to take care of yourself
The grieving process is overwhelming, and it’s exhausting. So, don’t forget to eat healthily, try to get enough sleep and exercise. Mind and body are interconnected, so taking care of your body has a positive effect also on your mental well-being.
Reach out to your close ones, don’t be afraid to ask for help or company when you feel like you need it or like it’s getting too much for you.
And do not forget that although human beings are resilient, you may find yourself overwhelmed by emotions, stuck, unable to carry on. You may also struggle with grief for longer periods of time and feel unable to complete daily activities. In this case, it may be helpful to talk with a psychologist or a mental health professional who can help you cope with your feelings and find a way to deal with your grief and go on with your life.
Poppy has now learned how to talk about loss and grief. You can access a demo version of the dialogue by clicking the link below: