Loss | Counselling Psychologist
Coping With Loss
Stephen Laverack, Counselling Psychologist, Johannesburg
August 18 2018
The loss of someone close to you such as a best friend, family member or cherished pet can be one of the most difficult experiences we face as human beings. Although it is a natural part of life, the intense grief you feel may mean being overcome with prolonged period of a sadness or depression, shock or confusion. However, these feelings usually lessen as time passes, even though it feels like they will never end at the time. Grieving is such the important process in coming to terms with loss of someone close whilst reflecting on the time you had with them. And what is important to remember is that everyone reacts differently to loss and uses whatever individual mechanisms for grief. However, it can feel like a difficult thing to go through. Perhaps there is some comfort when thinking of the term ‘time is a healer’, in that because it is such a personal experience that there is no ‘normal’ time table for someone to grieve. However, many people do not agree with this proverb and feel that although the pain remains it in some way changes or evolves. Although, there is research exploring the phases of grieving, it is now thought that people do not necessarily pass through phases in progressive steps. Humans rather experience grieving like waves of emotional ups and downs, or highs and lows which may over a period of time mean that the difficult times become less intense and shorter.

Although grieving the loss of a loved one is a personal journey there are many strategies which may help. Below are just a few:

• Talk about the loss of your family member, friend or pet with friends, family or colleagues in order to try and make sense of what happened and to remember them. By denying the loss it can result in feeling isolated from others. Other means of finding support following a loss may include joining a support group, using social media or talking to a mental health professional.

• Accept your feelings. You can try and supress your grief, but you cannot avoid it forever. In order to heal it’s often best to acknowledge the pain. People experience all kinds of emotions after a loss. Sadness, anger, frustration and even exhaustion are normal. You may find value in expressing your feelings in a tangible or creative way. And do not let anyone tell you how to feel, and do not tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own.

• Look after your health. The mind and body are connected and when you feel good physically, you will hopefully feel better emotionally. Eating well, exercising and getting plenty of rest may help you get through each day and move forward. With that said, try to avoid alcohol or drugs to ‘numb’ the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially.

Human beings are naturally resilient and even though it is normal to feel sad, numb or angry following a loss and then continue on with our lives. If you feel as though your grief is getting worse over a time, making it difficult to carry out normal day-to-day activities you may benefit from the assistance of a psychologist or another registered mental health professional that are trained to assist with resilience, sadness, fear, guilt, anxiety that can be associated with the death of a loved one.

The important thing to remember with grieving is to “Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgement. It’s okay to be angry, to yell at the heavens, to cry or not to cry. It’s okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you are ready.”

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