As we experience life, we will inevitably experience loss. Most people will experience the loss of a pet or a loved one throughout their life. Many people interpret loss to be experienced during times of death, although loss does not have to necessarily mean that someone or something has passed away. Intense life changes and other new ways of life can also bring about the same instability that loss does. These feelings can be interpreted as grief.
What Is Grief?
Grief and loss go hand in hand. Grief is a normal and common response to loss. Grief can be tricky to understand. Although there are common signs and symptoms of grief, many people exhibit these symptoms differently. Common reactions of grief might include:
- Insomnia and other sleep issues
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of interest in things once found pleasurable
- Increased substance use
No matter the circumstance, grief is valid. The COVID-19 pandemic is just one example of grief that many people would be able to understand. The pandemic surfaced many feelings of grief and loss as people were unable to see or be with their loved ones. The pandemic has also caused many people to lose their loved ones from the virus itself. Other examples of grief might include unemployment, losing support from family or friends, or other alterations in lifestyle. Grief becomes even more challenging to manage when multiple losses occur simultaneously.
Why Is Grief Beneficial?
Although prolonged grief can cause complications, there are many hidden benefits in experiencing grief. When grief surfaces in your own life, you may be able to recognize some of these benefits and use them as comfort.
- Grief can help you to come to terms with your own mortality. This in turn also helps you to appreciate and be grateful for what you have in your life.
- Grief can bring families and communities together. This can increase feelings of self-esteem and love, reassuring you that you are worthy and deserving of close relationships with others.
- Grief can foster new perspectives about the things that serve purpose and meaning in your life.
- Grief helps you to accept the things that you cannot change. It also can teach us that all experiences and feelings are temporary.
- Grief can teach you to hold close to your loved ones. It can emphasize the importance of practicing selflessness and care for others as well as for yourself.
- Grief can teach you empathy and help you to better understand other people’s experiences with grief. When you experience feelings of grief, you are in a better position to understand and comfort other people that are struggling.
There is no right amount of time for how long grief may last. People will experience grief as long as it will take them to heal from the intense experiences of loss in their life. As some people may experience grief for weeks, sometimes it can linger for years. In some cases, extreme emotional stress from grief can cause people to neglect their own needs and responsibilities. When grief causes issues in physical or cognitive functioning, it can start to raise concerns.
Healthy Ways to Cope With Grief
When you find yourself grieving, it is essential that you take time for yourself to heal. Grief can cause depletion in energy and emotional resilience, which is why it is crucial more than ever to attend to self-care. Here are some healthy suggestions on how to cope with grief:
- Honor your emotions. Avoiding or burying your emotions can act as an obstacle to healing. Although it is normal to suppress emotions initially, you have to acknowledge your distressing emotions in order to move beyond them. Unresolved grief can lead to worsening mental health problems. To honor your emotions, try to write a letter to yourself about your loss. Lean in on your support systems and keep your loved ones close.
- Find a connection to something bigger than yourself. This might be religious or spiritual but does not have to be either. Grief can help motivate self-discovery, essential to your life journey. Practice mindfulness to help you get closer to your deepest, most authentic self.
- Try to stay engaged in your life. There typically is comfort in routines, so it is important that you try to say involved in the activities that bring you joy. It is okay, and sometimes necessary, to take time to just be sad. Try not to let this time linger for too long. Get connected with the people that make you feel alive and help to aid your grieving process.
- Take advantage of the support from others, but know how to support yourself. Grief can cause feelings of dependency. Some of your loved ones may try to tell you how to feel, especially if your grieving process is taking longer than you had hoped. Honor your emotions without feeling embarrassed or judged. It is okay to not be okay.
- Recognize and plan for triggers. Certain losses will be revisited annually, especially when it comes to losing a loved one and experiencing holidays or anniversaries. Although normal, these situations can surface painful feelings. When you are able, try to plan ahead for these situations so that you can surround yourself with the people or things that make you feel loved and appreciated.
Grief is a normal emotion that many people experience while they go through challenging times of loss. Grief can be tricky, as many people experience symptoms of grief differently. No matter the circumstance of loss, grief is valid. Grief can be beneficial because it teaches people a variety of lessons, such as bringing community and families together and increasing appreciation for loved ones. Prolonged grief can raise various concerns in mental and physical health. It is essential that people learn healthy ways to cope with grief so that they can use to grow beyond personal adversity. West Coast Recovery Centers acknowledges that grief is a normal and common part of life. We know that grief can cause further complications in mental health and addiction. We want to give you the tools and resources you need to heal. For more about the treatment options we offer, give us a call today at (760) 492-6509.