Date: May 26, 2022
Grief is a natural response to losing someone or something that’s important to you. You may feel a variety of emotions, like sadness or loneliness. And you might experience it for a number of different reasons. Maybe a loved one died, a relationship ended, or you lost your job. Other life changes, like chronic illness or a move to a new home, can also lead to grief.
Everyone grieves differently. But if you understand your emotions, take care of yourself, and seek support, you can heal.
Your feelings may happen in phases as you come to terms with your loss. You can’t control the process, but it’s helpful to know the reasons behind your feelings. All people experience grief differently. Though it it no longer considered the ideal way to think about grief, you may have heard of the stages of grief:
Denial: When you first learn of a loss, it’s normal to think, “This isn’t happening.” You may feel shocked or numb. This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion. It’s a defense mechanism.
Anger: As reality sets in, you’re faced with the pain of your loss. You may feel frustrated and helpless. These feelings later turn into anger. You might direct it toward other people, a higher power, or life in general. To be angry with a loved one who died and left you alone is natural, too.
Bargaining: During this stage, you dwell on what you could’ve done to prevent the loss. Common thoughts are “If only…” and “What if…” You may also try to strike a deal with a higher power.
Depression: Sadness sets in as you begin to understand the loss and its effect on your life. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, and a decreased appetite. You may feel overwhelmed, regretful, and lonely.
Acceptance: In this final stage of grief, you accept the reality of your loss. It can’t be changed. Although you still feel sad, you’re able to start moving forward with your life.
Every person goes through these phases in their own way. You may go back and forth between them, or skip one or more stages altogether. Reminders of your loss, like the anniversary of a death or a familiar song, can trigger the return of grief.
There’s no “normal” amount of time to grieve. Your grieving process depends on a number of things, like your personality, age, beliefs, and support network. The type of loss is also a factor. For example, chances are you’ll grieve longer and harder over the sudden death of a loved one than, say, the end of a romantic relationship.
With time, the sadness eases. You’ll be able to feel happiness and joy along with grief. You’ll be able to return to your daily life.
In some cases, grief doesn’t get better. You may not be able to accept the loss. Doctors call this “complicated grief.” Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following:
When you’re in deep, emotional pain, it can be tempting to try to numb your feelings with drugs, alcohol, food, or even work. But be careful. These are temporary escapes that won’t make you heal faster or feel better in the long run. In fact, they can lead to addiction, depression, anxiety, or even an emotional breakdown.
Instead, try these things to help you come to terms with your loss and begin to heal:
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