Psychology of Grief: Symptoms and Coping Strategies

Coping with a loss of a partner, friend, or relative can be a very difficult challenge. When we lose someone we love, we experience grief, and this feeling can be very intense. Even though a loss is an integral part of our lives, losing someone you love is always a difficult experience that may result in depression and long periods of sadness.

Grief is an important process that is supposed to help you overcome your tough feelings and move on, but everyone experiences grief differently. How long does grief last? Sometimes, grief may last for months, while in other cases it may take years.

If your grief doesn’t get better and doesn’t let you enjoy the good things in your life, you should learn how to cope with the loss of someone who was important to you. There are different types of grief, and understanding the difference between them can help you choose the right grief recovery method.

For instance, you may try video conference therapy and talk to a therapist remotely, without even leaving your home. You can also follow various self-care practices. In this article, we will consider grief in detail and share some tips that might help you cope with a loss.

H2: What Grief Is

Grief has its trajectory, and there’s no rigid timeframe that would apply to it. It’s impossible to avoid grief completely. Moreover, sometimes, attempts to deny or suppress grief only make it last longer, while also draining emotional energy.

Most often, grief feels like waves of sadness that come out of the blue or are triggered by certain memories, associations, etc. At the same time, the amplitude of such waves declines with time, while the pauses between them become longer.

Some people experience short-term, or acute grief so they start to feel better relatively quickly. However, the feeling of sadness may return unexpectedly in the future. In contrast, some people may not feel any improvement for a long time. This is a reason why psychologists distinguish between different types of grief.

H3: Types of Grief

First of all, you should keep in mind that there’s no “right” or “wrong” kind of grief. Common misconceptions that longer grief is somewhat better or that people should grieve in a certain way can only make the whole process more difficult and create many additional problems.

In some cases, grief lasts particularly long, not letting a person move on with their life and interfering with their everyday activities. Psychologists call it prolonged, or complicated grief. While resilient, or regular grief becomes less intense with time, complicated grief may even become stronger and completely overwhelming.

Usually, people experience prolonged grief after particularly traumatic losses. For example, it may follow a loss of a child or a loss of a loved one under particularly traumatic circumstances. Delayed grief is another type that doesn’t manifest itself for some time but then becomes stronger. 

Grief also may or may not last longer depending on the way others respond to your loss. For instance, disenfranchised grief is a term that refers to grief that isn’t recognized by a larger society or develops when a person is unable to express their grief publicly. When people start to avoid you or talk about your loss too much, such reactions from others may also contribute to the development of complicated grief.

H3: The 5 Stages of Grief

There is a common opinion that people go through five stages of grief:

  • Denying grief altogether,

  • Feeling angry;

  • Bargaining,

  • Feeling depressed,

  • Accepting the loss.

Such a model was proposed back in 1969 by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying.

Although the idea of the five stages of grief became very popular, research data actually doesn’t support it. Many people don’t get to experience all the five stages, and that’s totally fine. Everyone experiences grief differently so you shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not you’re grieving “properly.”

With that said, many people go through some of these five stages, and grief can lead to depression. Moreover, grief itself may share some common symptoms with depression so it can be difficult to draw a distinction between the two. The main difference is that grief tends to ease with time.

Complicated grief may ultimately result in depression, with symptoms like a loss of interest in regular activities, insomnia, sadness, and an inability to feel pleasure. Therefore, if your symptoms of grief don’t become less intense or you start to experience new symptoms, a great solution is to take a depression test.

H2: How to Move On

  1. H3: Acknowledge and accept your grief

When we grieve, we may experience a whole range of emotions, including sadness, exhaustion, and anger. The first step toward improvement is to acknowledge your feelings and accept your grief. Denial may only stop you from talking to a therapist and getting the so-needed support.

  1. H3: Talk about your loss

First, people will eventually ask you about your loss in a conversation because otherwise, it might become awkward. You shouldn’t avoid people so that you won’t need to talk about your loss because isolation may only slow down the healing process.

Secondly, you need to talk about your loss with others because it will help you process your feelings and reflect on your emotions and memories. When it comes to grief, support (or a lack of thereof) can make a big difference, and your friends and relatives won’t be able to support you if you don’t want to talk about what happened.

  1. H3: Take care of yourself

Grief can be a difficult experience for both your mental and physical health. Given that grief can lead to insomnia, loss of appetite or overeating, and many other physical problems associated with stress, it’s important to take care of your body. Exercise, eat healthy foods, and make sure that you get plenty of sleep. 

  1. H3: Help others deal with the loss

You might be not the only one grieving. You can spend time with friends and relatives of the deceased, share stories about the person all of you loved, and support each other. Not only will you talk to someone who also knew that person, but you may also feel better by helping others.

  1. H3: Consider therapy

We’ve already mentioned that grief may lead to depression and have a severe negative impact on your mental health. Grief is the price we pay for love, and paying it is never easy.

If you realize that it’s very difficult for you to cope with grief and move on, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A licensed therapist can help you better understand your feelings and suggest effective coping strategies.

A great thing about therapy is that it can be delivered remotely. Online therapy platforms like Calmerry allow you to talk to therapists from the comfort of your home so you won’t need to commute to a therapist’s office. Learn more about the benefits of therapy to get ready for your first session.

H2: Wrapping Up

Losing someone you love is always a challenge, and grief is never easy. There are no standards regarding what grief should look like or how long it should last — everyone experiences it differently.

Some people experience grief for a couple of months, while others struggle with it for years. No matter how long it lasts, it can have a significant negative impact on one’s quality of life, and if that’s your case, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

 

Therapy can help you cope with your loss and get back on track. Besides, you can practice self-care and share your experience with others. The main thing is to acknowledge your feelings and accept support.

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