We’ve all experienced grief. We’ve all felt those intense rolling waves of emotion, but, do we all experience the same feelings each time we lose a loved one? Grief is a universal experience which describes all the emotions you feel after a significant loss. It is a natural response to any meaningful loss, real or imagined, and Grief and Loss counselling can be helpful when life events have left you alone, in shock, and unable to move ahead.
The death of someone you love or care about deeply can cause you to feel the full extent of grief. In many cases the emotions you feel may be unfamiliar or overwhelming. You may feel isolated and that no-one could possibly understand what you are experiencing. It may feel as though you are on a roller coaster. This is normal as you are coming to terms with the loss of the relationship and the person themselves.
Other losses may include:
- Relationship breakup
- Losing a job or status
- Loss of possessions
- Loss of financial stability
- Loss of health
- A miscarriage
- Loss of fertility
- Loss of a pet
- Changes in identity such as sexual abuse, assault, menopause and loss of youth
Each of these losses, depending on how important they were for you, leads to some experience of grief.
What are the experiences of Grief and Loss?
The experiences are many and varied. They can occur for several months or even years after the loss of someone or something you love. Some emotional experiences may include shock, numbness, relief, confusion, sadness, fear, anger, guilt, sleeplessness and loss of appetite. Some people may feel profound saddness, crying alot with symptoms of emptiness, despair, yearning or deep loneliness associated with emotional instability.
It is not uncommon to experience feelings of guilt, or to regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings (e.g. feeling relieved when the person died after a long, difficult illness). After a death, you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more you could have done.
A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. You may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.
People experiencing grief after the death of someone close can be more vulnerable to physical health problems than usual.
The most common physical distresses are:
- Tightness in the throat
- A choking feeling
- Shortness of breath
- Deep sighing
- An empty hollow feeling in the stomach
- Weakness in the muscles
- A general lack of energy
- Dry mouth
- Digestive symptoms and poor appetite
- Increased sensitivity to noise
Closely associated with the physical distresses may be certain emotional alternations, the most common of which are:
- A slight sense of unreality
- Feelings of emotional distance from people – that no one really cares or understands. Sometimes people appear shadowy or very small.
- Sometimes there are feelings of panic, thoughts of self – destruction, or the desire to run away or “chuck it all in”.
These emotional disturbances can cause many people to feel they are approaching insanity, but these feelings are actually quite normal. It is important to know that almost anything of your experience of grief is normal – including feeling like you’re going crazy, feeling like you’re in a bad dream, or questioning your religious or cultural beliefs.
If you would like a psychologist to support you through your grief and loss, freecall 1800 877 924 to make an appointment. Medicare rebates and bulk billing may be available – please enquire when making an appointment.