Everyone experiences grief differently and there is no right or wrong way to feel. While it can feel overwhelming at times, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Grief is often associated with losing a loved one (which is an incredibly tough thing to experience) yet loss can come in many forms. Some of us may experience a loss of independence (such as experiencing decreased mobility or transition into care) while others may be faced with a life-changing health diagnosis.
The size of one’s grief is relative to what we have lost; the loss of a life-long partner is not something to be ‘moved on’ from or solved. Grief can also accumulate over a long period of time and can be inflamed by specific incidences (coming across a power bill in your partners name for example). Everyone experiences grief differently and there is no right or wrong way to feel. Until we are in it, we don’t know how we will react so don’t be swayed by anyone to grieve in a certain way. Yet there are actions we can take that to ensure grief doesn’t rule our lives.
The first thing is to ensure you can be an active participant in your own grieving process. Give yourself permission to acknowledge how you feel; some people will experience anger, sadness, or hopelessness for example, while others may feel a physical weight or emptiness in their body. Accepting your grief allows you to begin separating how you feel from what you are; ‘I feel angry’ rather ‘I am angry’ for example. It’s a subtle shift in mindset but one that provides a space in which you can take a breath and reflect on your situation.
Guilt can be a common reaction to grief too, such as having feelings of ‘it should have been me’ or being ashamed for enjoying yourself in the absence of others. Again, these are completely normal responses to what you have experienced but they can keep you in an unhealthy cycle of grief. Think about the support you have, the things you can look forward to tomorrow, next week or even next year, and give yourself permission to be happy about even the smallest things. It’s not about diminishing the negatives but about accepting the positives too.
As we get older, we can become less willing to share how we’re feeling with others, at the risk of ‘burdening’ them with our problems. But it’s important to share your grief; you’ll find that you’re not alone in what you’re going through. If you feel comfortable talking to loved ones about how you’re feeling, this can be a great first step (although often they may be coping with their own grief too). Talking to someone impartial can help you share the load – this could be a professional counsellor or social worker or a trusted member of your community, such as a minister at your local church.
Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. Freephone or text 1737 talk to a trained counsellor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Looking for more information to help you on your journey? Order your free copy of our Where from here handbook at www.wherefromhere.co.nz or by calling us on 0800 162 706. You may also be able to get a copy at your local GP, library, Age Concern, Grey Power or Citizens Advice Bureau.