After experiencing the sudden death of a loved one, it can seem impossible to feel remotely human during the grieving process. Grief impacts every facet of one’s personal life; including your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, physical and mental health. It can feel as though there is a storm raging around you no one else is affected by. Rest assured you’re not alone. Everyone’s experience with grief is unique; it is a process, not an event.
Although it seems cliché, everyone does grieve differently. Your unique experience depends on many factors, including:
- Your relationship with the deceased
- Your spiritual beliefs
- Cultural practices
- Level of support from family and friends, and;
- Associated stressors i.e. financial hardship, relationship breakdown, etc.
When impacted by the sudden death of a loved one, it is important to remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may react in any number of ways, including anger, feeling anxious, panic, change in beliefs, depression, sleep disturbances and inability to cope, among others.
While reactions to grief are unique to the individual, grieving styles tend to fall into two broad styles. Your ‘grief style’ depends on your personality; however, many people experience a combination of both.
INTUITIVE: The grieving person concentrates on the emotional aspects of their loss and seeks out social support to process their feelings
INSTRUMENTAL: The grieving person focuses on the cognitive aspects of their loss. Grief manifests itself by dealing with the practical issues surrounding the loss i.e. handling funeral arrangements, legal issues, etc. Instrumental is a solitary style of grief in which the individual processes his or her feelings alone.
While in the throes of grief, it may seem impossible to cope. The truth is, there are many effective coping strategies, and by experimenting, you will find one, which will work best for you.
Crying is a normal response to intense feelings, and many find it cathartic. However, if you can’t cry, that doesn’t mean you aren’t grieving. Spending time alone to cry, pray or look through photographs of your loved one can help process your feelings. Finding a way to pay tribute to your loved one is an ideal way to help you feel closer to them. Whether you write letters, create a photo album or plant a tree, you will have a constant physical reminder of your loved one.
If you or someone you know is not coping, visit your doctor for a referral. Your doctor will pair you with a psychologist who can help you process your grief in a healthy way. With a psychologist, you are able to talk about your deceased loved one in a supportive environment. Your psychologist will encourage the use of productive coping strategies, which help you live with your bereavement.