‘I’d never had a serious loss before and I thought grief was basically lots of crying which peaked at the funeral and then you ‘got over it’ and ‘moved on’. I wasn’t prepared for the utter emotional, physical, and mental chaos that it was. I wasn’t prepared for all the other emotions that came with it – the guilt, the anger, the fear.’ (Annie)
Grief is our response to loss. It is the normal, natural and inevitable response to loss, and it can affect every part of our life, including our thoughts, behaviours, beliefs, feelings, physical health and our relationships with others.
With the support of family and friends, many people adapt to loss well and may not experience intense and persistent feelings; however, for some, the experience of grief can be overwhelming and further support may be helpful.
Common grief responses
After a death, we may experience a range of intense feelings, such as sadness, anger, anxiety, disbelief, panic, relief, irritability or numbness. Grief can also affect our thinking. We may think we will never get over this, or that we are going crazy. Sometimes grief can also cause difficulty in sleeping and physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, aches and pains. If physical symptoms persist, check with your GP to exclude other causes.
Grief is an individual experience
Everyone grieves in their own way. Your grief is unique to you, and as long as you are not causing harm to yourself or those around you, there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to grieve.
We do not always know how people are grieving simply by what we see. Some people are open and expressive with their grief, crying, and wanting to talk, whilst others are more private, may be reluctant to talk and prefer to keep busy. Other factors, such as culture, gender and belief systems can also influence the ways that people grieve. Grief is individual and personal, and it’s important to respect each other’s way of grieving, even if we don’t necessarily understand it.
Life grows around grief
It is a common myth that people ‘get over’ grief. The reality is, a part of us will always grieve the loss of our loved one. With time, the pain will lessen, but the sorrow we feel will always be a part of us. When people grieve they are coming to terms with what has changed in their lives. There is no ‘return to normal’; rather, we have to learn to live around a new kind of normal – re-learning the world and re-learning ourselves within it.
Grief doesn’t have a timeline
Grief can be triggered at any time, and it’s not unusual for grief to be felt over an extended period of time. It’s okay to admit you are struggling with your grief, whether it be weeks, months, years or even decades after the death.
Looking after yourself
When grieving, or supporting someone who is grieving, it can be all too easy to neglect our own needs. Taking the time to look after yourself, however, can make a big difference in your ability to function on a day-to-day basis, especially in the longer term. Below are some suggestions about how to get through some of the difficult times.
Privately and personally
Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement
253 Wellington Road Mulgrave VIC 3170
Telephone: (03) 9265 2100 Freecall: 1800 642 066
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ABN: 22 038 903 478
Fax: (03) 9265 2150 Website: http://www.grief.org.au ACN: 159 297 444
The Australian Centre for Grief
and Bereavement acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.