It can be very hard to cope after the loss of a loved one. When grieving, you can feel detached from everyday routines, or guilty for trying to get on with daily tasks, such as grocery shopping, showering, driving your car, etc.
This article explores the ways you can ease overwhelming feelings of grief in time. By using the power of your mind, you can turn a very negative situation into one where you can help others, and learn to honor the memories you have with your loved one, without sacrificing your happiness.
Ways of Grieving
The Oxford Dictionary defines grief as ‘intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death.’ However, when people feel sorrow, they can project it in many different ways, and your experience of grieving could be completely different to someone else.
Here are some examples of the ways that people grieve after the death of someone they love:
- Denial – This person will appear to ‘act normal’ and carry on with their everyday routine. They may refuse to discuss the situation and come across as very accepting of the death.
- Anger – This person will take it out on others. They may find it difficult to have normal everyday conversations with peers and get frustrated very easily.
- Sadness – This person may be inconsolable for some time. Tears and feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming. It can sometimes go on to develop into anxiety or depression.
- Reflection – This person will find comfort in preserving the memories of the deceased person. They will express their emotions through rituals, songs, etc.
- Dependence – The person may latch on to others for support and put all their energy into others in order to take their mind off the person who died.
- Independence – This person will seek affirmation through doing good deeds, taking on big projects, or setting personal goals to better themselves and keep them occupied.
- Spiritual – This person may look to the universe or a religion and ask questions about their existence. They may adopt philosophical beliefs to create meaning in their lives and feel a sense of belonging after their loved one has died.
The NHS says that ‘people react in different ways to loss. Anxiety and helplessness often come first. Anger is also common, including feeling angry at someone who’s died for “leaving you behind”. Sadness often comes later. Feelings like these are a natural part of the grieving process. Knowing that they are common may help them seem more normal. It’s also important to know that they will pass.
Marie Curie explains how grief is a natural response, yet is different for everyone:‘It’s impossible to predict how you’ll react to the death of someone you care about, even when you know what’s going to happen.
You may go into shock or feel numb. You may feel disbelief and that what’s happened isn’t real. You might carry on―or try to carry on―as though nothing has happened. In the first few minutes and hours, you may go through many different feelings and emotions, and that is normal. There’s no right or wrong way to feel and react.
Grief is not just one feeling, but many emotions that follow on from one another. You may find your mood changes quickly, or that you feel very differently in different situations. People who are bereaved sometimes say they feel ‘up and down
You may feel:
- Shocked or numb
- Anxious or agitated
- Lacking in purpose
You might also find it difficult to concentrate or carry out tasks that would normally be easy. There’s no right or wrong way to feel and no timetable for grief. Everyone is different.
It’s common for people to swing between feeling OK one minute and upset the next. You might find that these feelings come in waves or bursts―this can be unpredictable and might make you feel worried, ashamed or afraid.
How Long Does Grief Last?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this, which can cause worry and panic when you are experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. The NHS says: ‘There’s no instant fix. You might feel affected every day for about a year to 18 months after a major loss. But after this time the grief is less likely to be at the forefront of your mind.
From personal experience, I felt grief after losing my grandparents for about two years. I often dreamt about them and then after two years, the dreams stopped, this then felt like the end of the grieving process for me. When anniversaries and birthdays come around, I still feel a sense of sadness. Marie Curie touches on this: ‘People sometimes ask how long they will grieve for. There’s no good answer to this as it will be different for each person. You may have different feelings that come and go over months or years. Gradually, people find that their feelings of grief aren’t there all the time and aren’t as difficult to cope with. At times, these feelings might still be stronger―for example, at anniversaries, birthdays or in certain places.
How to Overcome Grief
Now that you have established the ways you can experience grief and the possible length of how long you’ll be feeling this way, you may want to look at ways to overcome it and how to ease your symptoms.
Former QVC host, Dan Wheeler, wrote a book about his grieving process after losing his wife Beth to cancer in 2015. In an article about his book, ‘Hurricane of Love’, Dan describes something that he calls “the year of firsts”, that is the situations he found himself in without his wife, which had never happened before:
‘Even though I was relieved that Beth was finally out of her pain from battling stage 4 cancer, my heart ached from the realization that after spending 37 years with her, I would never see her again – this side of heaven.
I had no idea that this was just the beginning of my grieving process. The year of firsts was coming.For the next five weeks:
- I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning.
- Taking a shower, shaving and getting dressed just seemed like too much work.
- I didn’t want to leave my house.
- I spent my days looking at photos and watching videos of my late wife.
- I didn’t really want to see anyone other than my daughters and my grandchildren.
Before long, Thanksgiving arrived. This was the first holiday without Beth. It was the “first” in my “year of firsts,” and I didn’t realize how gut-wrenching every first holiday, anniversary, and birthday was going to be without her.
Here are six ways of how to deal with bereavement (as told by Dan Wheeler):
- Recognize that there will be tough days
- Express how you feel
- Celebrate holidays in honor of their memory
- Live in the moments you have
- Hold on to hope
- Lean on your family and friends
An article by E.C LaMeaux on Gaiam lists four similar steps on how to overcome the death of a loved one: 1. Allow the feelings‘There are times when more than one emotion seems to take hold at once, and you may feel as if you’re “going crazy.” It’s natural to feel this way, as it’s normal to experience a number of different feelings.
2. Gather supportWhile there may be times as you are coping with loss when you’ll wish to be alone, it’s important to gather a support group around you for those times when you might need them. The death of a loved one often leaves a large hole in the life of the survivor that can be, at least temporarily, occupied by a support team.
3. Allow the grieving process‘Bereavement and grief are a process. It’s important to know that every person has their own way of coping with loss. You cannot put a time limit on your grief.
4. Embrace life‘By working through overcoming the death of a loved one, you will come to a place of accepting the death as a reality. You will find yourself able to move forward and embrace your life without your loved one by your side.’
What if You Can’t Overcome Your Grief?
If your grieving goes on for an extended period of time without any progress or gets worse and worse, this is often called ‘complicated grief’ or ‘unresolved grief.’ The cancer.org website lists the common symptoms of this:
- ‘Continued disbelief in the death of the loved one, or emotional numbness over the loss
- Inability to accept the death
- Feeling preoccupied with the loved one or how they died
- Intense sorrow and emotional pain, sometimes including bitterness or anger
- Unable to enjoy good memories about the loved one
- Blaming oneself for the death
- Wishing to die to be with the loved one
- Excessively avoiding reminders of their loss
- Continuous yearning and longing for the deceased
- Feeling alone, detached from others, or distrustful of others since the death
- Trouble pursuing interests or planning for the future after the death of the loved one
- Feeling that life is meaningless or empty without the loved one
- Loss of identity or purpose in life, feeling like part of themselves died with the loved one
For some people who are taking care of a loved one with a long-term illness, complicated grief can actually start while their loved one is still alive. Caregivers under severe stress, especially if the outlook is bleak, may be at higher risk of having abnormal grief even before the death.’
Anxiety and Depression Caused by Grief
Although grief is unpleasant for all, for some, it can go on to develop into anxiety or depression. Sometimes, the thought of dealing with grief can feel threatening and this can then lead to avoidance.
The avoidance of feelings or expression can create a harmful habit that develops into anxiety or depression.
Many people think that if they make efforts to avoid their feelings for long enough, they will then go away. In reality, the attempt to suppress certain thoughts often makes them more likely to surface.
Therapy for Bereavement
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
For those who are suffering from complicated or unresolved grief, or those who have developed anxiety or depression after someone passing, therapy can be a powerful resolution in easing your symptoms. The NHS suggests CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), which is commonly used to treat anxiety and depression and can be useful for other mental and physical health problems too. The NHS explain how CBT works:
‘CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle.CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts.You’re shown how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel.Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.’
Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT)
Marisa Peer has helped many clients overcome anxiety and depression throughout her 30-year career as a therapist. She uses her own remarkable technique called Rapid Transformational Therapy™ (RTT), which is a complete solution based treatment. RTT harnesses the most powerful healing potential on the planet―the mind. Based on the science of neuroplasticity, it combines the most beneficial principles of Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy, NLP, CBT and Neuroscience.
RTT taps into the subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind is like your autopilot, it is how your body breathes, your heart pumps, and your eyelids blink. It is what keeps you alive without even thinking about it. We operate from our subconscious 95% of the time.
The subconscious mind acts like a giant library or vault where everything we’ve ever experienced is stored and these imprints inform our understanding of the world and our place within it. The beliefs we formed are responsible for our emotions, feelings and reactions.
If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety or depression through the loss of a loved one, Marisa offers hypnosis therapy audio downloads which can be listened to in the comfort of your home.
Useful Resources and Downloads
The Overcome Depression Audio uses direct suggestions and commands for your subconscious mind, restoring a belief and certainty that you deserve to be happy.
Marisa also has an online blog with a section that is dedicated to the topic of anxiety and depression. Here, you can read helpful suggestions on how to overcome overwhelming feelings of sadness, irritability, remorse, and guilt.
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