Grief has been the overwhelming emotion of the last year. Some of us have lost family members, friends and colleagues. Others have lost their jobs, businesses or preferred way of working. We have all lost the lives we had before coronavirus hit and changed the world. We have all had to make significant changes to the way we live, socialise and work.
Any change, even if it’s welcome, creates some feelings of loss. We inevitably have to give something up or leave something behind when we make a change. Any loss can lead to grief. So, we’ve all experienced grief to some degree in the past year or so. But we tend not to really understand it or know what to do.
As a result, I became really interested in the emotion of grief and how we grieve. In addition to my personal experiences, over the past year I have spent a lot of time researching grief and loss. It is fascinating.
Most of us are familiar with the grief cycle:
It’s useful in some ways but doesn’t even begin to cover what it actually feels like to experience grief.
Here are my tips for dealing with your own grief, and some guidance on helping a person who is grieving.
Tips for dealing with grief
If you’re grieving:
- Remember there’s no right way to grieve. There are no rules.
- Take your time. Or don’t. Whatever works for you. I took 6 weeks off after my dad died, I just couldn’t deal with clients. My brother was back at work 3 days later. He took a day off for the funeral and went to work the next day. It helped him to do something normal; it helped me to shut down. Both are fine.
- Talk to a counsellor or therapist. I was really struggling until I talked to a fellow BWRT practitioner who took me through the wonderful grief protocol. I was able to deal with some issues that remained unresolved between us and say a loving goodbye to my dad. Afterwards, although I was sad, it was much more bearable and manageable.
- Let it be. Grieving is natural. You can’t stop it happening, don’t try.
- Don’t feel bad for being angry. All your emotions will be intense for a while, but anger can be especially surprising. There will be days when you’re raging. I have lost it with several people over the past year, for good reason I hasten to add! I’m not an angry person so the extent of the anger shocked me. However, it was surprisingly cathartic to let rip!
- Enjoy the good days. Sometimes you’ll be able to laugh, enjoy your favourite TV programme and feel almost normal. That’s not wrong or weird, when you’re in a good place enjoy it. Don’t feel guilty. Give yourself a break.
- Be open about how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling like crap and can’t cope that day, tell people, they’ll understand.
- Go with the flow. Some days I like to look at old photos and remember the good times. It helps. Other days I can’t even bear to see the word ‘dad’.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well. Exercise. Meditate. Tap. Have some reiki. Avoid booze and other unhealthy ways of feeling better. But if you need something to help you sleep or feel calmer don’t hesitate to talk to your GP.
- Grief isn’t linear. You won’t go smoothly through a process. Your emotions will be swirling around, and you’ll stumble your way through what feels like a fog filled room. You’ll think you’re doing OK and then, wham, it will hit again. Months after he passed I burst into tears at seeing boxes of cornflakes in the supermarket – my dad had them for breakfast every day.
But each time it will feel a little bit less intense.
Tips for helping someone with grief
Talking to someone who is grieving can feel awkward and uncomfortable, it’s hard to know what to say and do. Here are some tips that may help:
- The first time you see them acknowledge their loss, even if it’s a while after the death of their loved one. It’s a really big thing so don’t pretend it didn’t happen. ‘I was sorry to hear about your dad’ and ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ are both fine.
- Use their loved one’s name. Nobody wants them airbrushed out. Include them when you can.
- Ask how they’re feeling today. Some days they’ll be feeling OK, other days they won’t.
- If they get upset don’t be embarrassed. Just wait for them to recover.
- If they’re in the mood to talk about their loved one let them. Ask gentle questions and encourage them to share their thoughts.
- Don’t tell them you know how they’re feeling. You don’t. Everyone feels things differently and experiences grief in a different way.
- Don’t share your own grief stories or give advice unless they ask you to. It’s disrespectful and implies that your grief is worse, or more important than theirs. Plus, when you’re in the midst of grief you just may not be able to cope with someone else’s emotions on top of your own.
- Listen much more than you speak. That’s good advice for life in general.
- Be patient. There’s no time limit or expiry date on grief. I lost a job many years ago and was completely devastated. Just a few weeks later a formerly close colleague sighed when I said something about what had happened, said ‘not this again!’ and told me I should have moved on by now. That wasn’t his call to make, and I lost all respect for him.
- Be kind. Their world has completely changed, and they will take some time to adjust.
Here are some additional resources:
To find a registered BWRT practitioner go to https://www.bwrt.org/
For counselling, support and guidance try https://www.cruse.org.uk/
Two books I found especially useful are:
’You’ll Get Over It: The Rage of Bereavement’ by Virginia Ironside
‘The Plain Guide to Grief’ by John Wilson
As a registered BWRT practitioner I can help with grief. To find out more call me on +44 (0) 7485 248 353 or book a quick chat.