The experience of grief goes beyond just sadness. Often, the pain of loss can feel overwhelming. You may experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight. These are normal reactions to loss—and the more significant the loss, the more intense your grief may be.
Unfortunately, most of us have not been taught how to deal with loss and therefore are unprepared for some of the significant traumas of life. In a land of plenty, we are taught how to acquire things, not what to do when we lose them. Some of the messages we may have learned about loss include:
“Don’t cry, we’ll get you a new one” following the loss of a favourite toy, or a pet.
“If you’re going to cry, go to your room.”
“No one wants to hear your sob story.”
“Give them space; they’ll get over it.”
“Keep busy to avoid those feelings.”
“You’ve got to be strong.”
"The best thing is to try to put what happened behind you and get back to normal as soon as possible. Try to go on as if nothing has changed."
While often well-intentioned, the reason why people may embrace the above misguided ‘solutions’ is because when we admit pain, it makes us feel vulnerable, and vulnerability is an uncomfortable feeling that we usually want to avoid. But the truth is all losses are worthy of recognition and acknowledgement, and all those in mourning have the right to grieve. (1)And beyond having the right to grieve, we have the need to grieve! Processing our grief is the only way to readjust to our new reality in as healthy of a way as possible. Unaddressed grief, also called complicated grief, can contribute to mental health symptoms, including depression. (2)
Grief work begins with the following steps:
Seek support from those who understand. We can draw strength from those who have gone through similar experiences and know how to empathize.
Create a mourning ritual (a way to honour what was lost). Examples:
Write a goodbye letter that expresses what you are feeling.
Plant a tree in a loved one’s honour.
Make a collage of your memories.
Start an annual commemorative ritual.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Believe people when they offer help. Serving others is good for our soul and gives life a sense of purpose, so let others who want to help by serving do so, knowing it will be good for both of you!
Get any needed professional help. Our friends have limitations. If you are experiencing ongoing depression, or other health issues arising from grief, look for professional help from a counsellor or therapist.
All grief is valid. No one else gets to tell you what you should or shouldn’t feel about any loss or circumstance.
Grief Counselling Resources:
Coping Bereavement Groups of Ontario: https://www.copingcentre.com/ 519-650-0852
Bereaved Families of Ontario: https://bfomidwest.org/ (519) 603-0196
The information on this website is intended for general education purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional and/or medical advice.