The emotional side of loss

People feel and show grief in many different ways. Some feel extreme sadness and cry a lot. Others feel out of control and angry. Some people say they have a hard time sleeping and eating, while others experience exactly the opposite and want to sleep or eat all the time. Some people get headaches or other physical symptoms like losing or gaining weight, body aches and pains, feeling out of breath or stomach upsets.

There are so many ways to express grief including: crying, wanting to be alone/not wanting to talk to anyone, talking a lot, being silent, laughing, wanting to party, needing to do lots of physical activities, sleeping a lot, listening to the same song (often on repeat), not wanting to change anything in the house, wanting to move away from where you live, throwing things out, sleeping with something that belongs to, or reminds you of, your mum or dad or brother or sister, talking to the person who has died, calling their mobile phone so you can hear their voice and doing activities that remind you of them.

There is no right or wrong way to feel or express grief, it’s just important to look after yourself.

When someone you love dies your life is changed forever. Understanding those changes, getting used to them and adjusting to them can take a really long time.

It doesn’t matter how long it was before you found out that your mum or dad or brother or sister was going to die from their cancer, nothing could have prepared you for when it actually happened, or for what you’re going through now.

What’s normal?

There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ way to grieve. Everyone in your family will do it a bit differently, even though you are grieving for the same person. In most cases we grieve the same way we live:

  • If you are the type of person who tackles problems head on and just gets on with it then you will probably grieve in the same way.
  • If you are quiet and withdrawn and tend to keep things to yourself, then you will probably cope with your grief in that way.

When you are grieving, it is normal for everyday things to seem hard and for you to have a heap of mixed and really strong emotions. And this might go on for a long time. That’s why grief and depression sometimes get confused.

How it feels and how long it lasts is different for everyone and can depend on a number of things, including your relationship to the person who died, what else is happening in your life and the type of support you have.

Things that might happen:

  • It may shock you how long your grief lasts. You might expect to get back to ‘normal’ in a few weeks or months and then get angry and frustrated when that doesn’t happen. Other people may also expect you to ‘move on’ and this can put extra pressure on you.
  • You may never really get over the death of someone you love – but you do learn to live with it and it becomes a part of who you are. You will still have moments of sadness but they won’t last as long or throw you as much.
  • You might have periods when you feel like it’s all calm and good and then suddenly get hit by a wave of grief all over again. Sometimes you can predict and plan for the event that might trigger another wave – like a birthday, anniversary, or school event – but sometimes it just hits you without warning, when you hear a song, smell something or see someone who reminds you of your parent or brother or sister.

 

What goes on in your head can have a huge impact on happens in your body. Grief can bring stress and painful thoughts, so taking care of your mind is really important.

  • Learn how to relax.
  • Take time to chill with your friends.
  • Deal with the small stuff so that you don’t spend time and energy worrying about it.
  • Talk to people about how you are feeling.
  • Find ways to laugh – go to a funny movie or catch up with a friend who always cracks you up.

When you are grieving it’s easy to stop taking care of yourself. You may just want to lie on the couch and eat chips.

But looking after your physical and mental health will give you the strength you need to deal with your grief.

  • Eat well. If your appetite is down, try several small meals throughout the day instead of three big ones.
  • Get plenty of sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try meditation, listening to music, a warm shower or bath or herbal drink before you go to bed.
  • Try to keep up with sport or regular exercise.
  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol.