Understanding, Accepting and Managing Grief

Grief Support

We empathize with how the death of a loved one can be a difficult experience.

They may be gone, but they are far from forgotten. It’s an experience nobody expects yet leaves scars in our hearts that last a lifetime.

In our own way, Algordanza wishes to help you cope with grief and loss. A local certified Psychotherapist stands with us in this endeavor and brings you the following articles to help you in times of grieving:

Understanding, Accepting and Managing Grief
Understanding, Accepting and Managing Grief
Written by:Sasha Javadpour - Founder|Director|Psychotherapist-Hirsch Therapy Pte. Ltd.

Understanding, Accepting and Managing Grief

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything,
your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”

—Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

Unfortunately, it is a sad fact of life that everyone will experience loss at some point in their lifetime. We may experience the loss of a loved one, a pet, a body part, or even our past self. We may also experience loss in other circumstances, not related to death, such as in divorce or leaving a job. Such loss may express itself through sleep problems, low moods, avoidance or reminders, occasional to frequent crying, agitated speech, drastic appetite changes, social withdrawal, or relationship difficulties. These are signals to you that you are experiencing grief; and it is a natural and necessary part of life. We humans, like many other species, are social creatures who spend much of our lives forming and nurturing attachments to things and people. We invest a lot of time and effort in building these attachments, and we get back a lot of beneficial returns from these relationships. It would only be natural to expect an intense reaction to the loss of such an attachment.

Grief is generally defined as a response to loss that can affect us emotionally, psychologically, and physically. It can be experienced through intense emotions, such as sadness, depression, loneliness, despair, anxiety, or anger. It can be experienced as a total collapse of several beliefs and assumptions that we held about ourselves, others, and the world. It can be experienced physically through fatigue, tightness in the chest, breathing difficulty, heart pain, or a sinking feeling in the stomach. It can also be experienced as physical or emotional numbness.

Grief can come suddenly or it may come gradually. It is also not uncommon for grief to leave us and then return after some time – for example on anniversaries or around the holidays. Its expression, when it starts, its duration, and its possible return are difficult to predict and vary from person to person, depending on many individual, familial, cultural, religious, and societal factors.

At this point, grief may seem to be one of the worst, most confusing, turbulent, uncertain, hopeless, and painful experiences in life. Fortunately, most people fully recover from the loss and learn to re-adjust to life. However, this will take time and effort. In the following section, we will identify two areas that will need your attention when managing your grief. These are the acceptance of the passing and managing of your emotional reactions.

First of all, we need to accept, both logically and emotionally, that the loss has occurred. Denial may be the first immediate response faced by many who are experiencing loss. This is the mind’s natural way of softening the blow. It allows us to deal with the loss in smaller and more manageable parts. In this phase, it is important for you to know that it is okay to take your time and that any reaction is perfectly acceptable. Allow yourself time to slowly feel the full weight of what has happened. It is okay to, occasionally, take a step back and withdraw for a while. It can be helpful to identify and cultivate sources for emotional support that you can call on when you need to. Also, as this is a predominantly emotional phase to go through, it may be prudent to hold off on making any big life decisions at this time. This is to allow your emotional mind time to regain a sense of peace before you switch to the logical mind to make important decisions.

The emotional response can be intense and very distressing. The more the attachment meant to you, the stronger the grief reaction will be. Again, the natural response will be to find ways to counteract the aversive reaction and to self-soothe. At this stage, people may turn to alcohol, drugs, or risky behaviours to avoid or numb the pain of loss. Others may extend this to engage in self-destructive behaviours such as severe substance abuse, physical violence, or suicidality. To minimise these, it can be helpful to equip yourself with as many alternatives as possible. We tend to fixate on a negative habit when we lack alternative options.

It is important to remember here that grief hits everyone differently and at different times. We all grieve differently, and we all will have different needs while grieving. An example of this can be found at a funeral where you may find some people who remain solemn, while others may cry. Some may even share a laugh. Each response is fulfilling a different need for the grieving process. Withdrawing into a dignified, serious, or sombre state can allow space for personal reflection. Crying has a soothing effect that can help regulate emotions, and can reduce distress and pain. Laughter helps to release tension in the body and can help us to relax. When we mourn, we honour the dead. When we laugh we remember their goodness. Remember that grieving may elicit positive or negative emotions. Both of which are alright to experience.

In grief, there is also a strong conflict between the need to be left alone and the need for help and support. This is normal. It is important that you know it is okay to feel fluctuations between these two needs. It will be helpful to check in with yourself occasionally.

Ask yourself, “what am I feeling and what might I need to feel better?”

Do you need to be alone for a while to really feel your emotions? Do you need some time to just indulge yourself with some comfort food? Do you need a shoulder to cry on? Do you need someone to have a laugh with? When you can answer this, it will make it easier for you to communicate your needs to others who want to help you.

In closing, grieving is an incredibly personal experience. It can help tremendously to have self-awareness, self-understanding, patience with yourself. On the other hand, grief can also be very lonely. And when that happens, it helps to have people around who support you. There are also plenty of psychotherapy or counselling services that can assist you in managing this intense experience or resolving some of the internal conflicts you may experience. Therapy can also simply just provide you with a private and judgment-free space to explore and work through your feelings.

Grief work is not about forgetting. It is about accepting the loss, managing the consequences, and adjusting to a new life.