Grief is a natural psychological, social and physical response to the loss of someone or something that had an attachment or bond to you. However, in some instances like experiencing a relationship breakup, amputation, or rejection from one’s dream school may also result in characteristics of grief. Some characteristics of someone mourning would include yearning, numbness, hopelessness, and sometimes guilt. When grieving, there are lots of intense emotions that can be particularly painful, uncomfortable, and traumatic. Hence, it is normal to take some time to cope with the loss and move forward. In some cases, individuals experience distressing memories and thoughts with regards to the loss and may feel an even greater intensity of grief, which is termed as “Bereavement”. Bereavement becomes a problem when an individual is frozen in time and is experiencing dysfunctionality due to the loss.
Common stages of Grief
- Denial: “This cannot be happening to me”
- Anger: “Why is this happening to me? Who is to blame?”
- Bargaining: “I would do anything for this to not happen”
- Depression: “I feel too sad to do anything”
- Acceptance: “I am at peace with what has happened”
The stages of Grief may be different for different people and not everyone who is grieving goes through all five stages. Some may also experience stages of Grief in a different order. Ultimately, it is not the completion of all of the stages in a specific sequence that results in successful mourning, but rather, the ability to review the relationship lost with acceptance and adapt to continue living life to the fullest despite the loss of an important person or item.
Coping with Grief
- Acknowledge your emotions
- React to the loss (e.g. yearning, anger, disbelief)
- Things you can do to express yourself: Journaling, meditation, or speaking to a trusted friend, etc.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle (as much as possible)
- It may be difficult to eat or sleep due to the loss but a healthy lifestyle contributes to better mental health.
- Things you can do to improve your lifestyle: Exercise, eat and sleep sufficiently, do your favourite hobbies, etc.
- Be kind to yourself
- Understand that the loss is not your fault, or forgive yourself for the things you have/ have not done or said.
- Reach out to others.
- You are not alone, it is okay to seek help.
- Spending time with other loved ones can provide you the emotional and physical support you need in coping with the loss.
When to seek professional help
- Major depression/ anxiety/ PTSD (intense emotions)
- Insomnia or nightmares related to the loss (for an extended period of time)
- Distress and dysfunctional in daily routines (inability to work/ go outside)
- Constantly thinking of the loss
- Avoidance of reminders/activities (done with loved one previously) affecting the present
- Desire to die with deceased
Treatments for Grief (Bereavement)
- Grief Counselling
- Allow the individual to express their emotions
- Identify any unhelpful coping strategies
- Grief Therapy (if the individual is experiencing depression/ anxiety)
- Group or individual Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) (for Complicated Grief (severe cases, e.g. involvement of self-blame and distress))
- Changing unhelpful mindsets like blaming oneself for the loss
- Introducing behavioural change like reconnecting with others and reattempting activities without deceased
- Manualised treatment for Complicated Grief
- Building connections
- Storytelling (reflecting on death)
- Using memories (reviewing positive memories)
- Imagery rescripting (for those with trauma/ self-blame)
In most treatments for grief, clients will be taught about stress management and relaxation techniques to cope with distress. Coping methods are usually personalised based on the relationship with the deceased. If Grief is left untreated, it may develop into other serious conditions like complicated grief and depression which could significantly affect one’s mental health. Thus, it is not necessary to have all the signs mentioned above before seeking professional help. Even if you are feeling slightly distressed or need someone to talk to, it is always good to seek help from therapists.
“Grief is not a sign of weakness, it is the price of love.”
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