Last week we spoke to Lily-Jo, counsellor and founder of The Lily-Jo Project, all about anxiety. It was REALLY helpful so we are back for more! This time to discuss GRIEF, what it is and how to handle it.
So, Lily-Jo, what is grief and what does it look like?
I personally would describe grief as a deep, painful, loss. We experience grief when someone we love dies or when we experience any kind of loss. You probably ‘grieve’ more than you think.
However, you can experience mild grief, like maybe when you lose a Saturday job that you didn’t really like anyway, or your pet goldfish dies that you won at the fair a week previous. Or you can experience deeper loss and grief when you experience the death of say a grandparent, friend, or teacher you were close to.
There are some physical symptoms of grief which include: Crying, feeling sick, fear, feeling numb, panic, stomach upset, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite.
And emotional reactions too which include: Longing for the loved one, guilt, anger, intense sadness, emptiness, shock, disbelief, despair, worry, peace, relief, confusion.
How long does grief last?
The amount of time it takes to grieve totally depends on the depth of your relationship with that person or that thing. I once heard someone say it takes as many years as you knew the person for. I’m not sure there is a formula that works that rigidly.
I think each one of us handles grief differently. I think if you allow yourself about a year to fully grieve, this means you’ve gone through all the important ‘firsts’, their first birthday without them, the first Christmas, the first holiday season etc.
There is a brilliant exercise that I use with clients called The Whirlpool of Grief which explains the grief experience.
What’s the best way to be a good friend to someone who has lost a loved one?
Let them know you are there for them, then actually be there for them. Whether that’s just going over to their house and sitting with them in silence, or whether its being a listening ear. Be present, acknowledge the loss, don’t ignore it; say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ and ask them ‘is there anything I can do to help?’. If they request something specific, do it!
Does everyone have to grieve? If I don’t grieve, does it make me a bad person?
As I mention in The Whirlpool of Grief video above, in our culture I don’t personally feel like we grieve particularly well. We tend to want to get the funeral over and done with and move on as quickly as possible, stiff upper lip and all.
But in other cultures grieving is taken very seriously, its frowned upon not to outwardly grieve.
I think the key is knowing the process, knowing there is a beginning a middle and an end to it, and not being afraid of it. Below are a couple of the ‘top tips’ for grieving that I share on: The Lily-Jo Project for more ideas, why not have a look.
Carve out time to grieve. Allow time in your day, week, or month to actually grieve for the person who has gone. When my father-in-law died we spent a week abroad where we grieved. We talked about him, we shared stories, we cried, we laughed, we thought about what he would want for us now.
Create a memory box and fill it with special things that remind you of the person.
Express your feelings. If there are any leftover feelings of anger or trauma surrounding the death, why not express that anger in a letter? Perhaps you may want to write to the health professional concerned. Do not actually send this letter to the person, rather use the letter as an expression of your own feelings. If you feel guilt or shame, you may want to write the letter to yourself. Make sure you end the letter, with a line like: ‘”However, I now choose to…(let go of the guilt, move on, forgive myself, leave this with God”)
Grief is often talked about as a process that is ultimately good for you to go through, but it is a lot to handle; so how do you stop grief from turning in to depression?
I think grief and depression have a lot of the same symptoms and if grief isn’t properly worked through or expressed, can lead to depression. If you can be honest with people around you about how you are feeling then depression is less likely to take hold.
Why not try keeping a journal of your grief process? Write in it all your thoughts and feelings. I find journalling so helpful and its a great bench mark to look back through and see how far you’ve come. (Also helpful if you ever want to write an autobiography!) When my parents got divorced I went through a grief process. Click here to read my story.
For those that are currently grieving and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, what is some hope that we can share with them?
Your grief will get easier with time as long as you work through it at your own pace. Time is a great healer. You will never forget the person or the thing you have lost, but the pain should subside if the grief is allowed to be expressed fully.
I recommend a couple of great books on my site; one by my friend Ems Hancock who is also featured on the site called Good Grief and the other is called An Introduction To Coping With Grief by Sue Morris.