How Addressing Our Grief Can Transform Our Lives
How Unresolved Grief Can Disrupt Our Lives
Grief is a natural emotion that we all experience, and if left unresolved it can be difficult to cope with and even have an adverse effect on our mental wellbeing. Grief will manifest itself in different ways from person to person, ranging from feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and loneliness.
When we experience a loss, it is important to allow ourselves to fully feel the emotion without bottling it up or avoiding it. It is also important to remember that grief is not a linear process and that it is okay to feel overwhelmed by the emotions that we are feeling.
Symptoms of Unresolved Grief
Grief is a complex emotion that can manifest itself in a variety of ways person to person, depending how we react to the loss, but it is important to learn to recognise when we are experiencing it. One way we can recognise feelings brought about by grief is by paying attention to how we are feeling.
Mental and emotional symptoms include anxiety, confusion, guilt, depression and anger - any of which can negatively impact our confidence.
Physical signs of grief can include a lump in the throat, lethargy, difficulty breathing, chest tightness and changes in appetite. Signs can also include physical pain in the body, even injuries and accidents, for example, I reacted to my mum's death with guilt and anger towards myself, feeling I didn't do enough. My body responded with chronic stomach pain.
Another way to recognise feelings brought about by grief is through our behaviour. Grief can manifest in behaviours such as withdrawing from social situations, avoiding reminders of the person that has passed away, or having trouble focusing or sleeping.
We may also find ourselves engaging in activities that provide a sense of momentary relief, such as comfort eating, regularly binge watching and throwing ourselves into work or other activities that require all our focus.
By being mindful of our behaviour, we can become more aware of how grief is impacting us and can begin to seek out appropriate sources of support.
How Unresolved Grief Can Disrupt Our Lives
Sometimes we hear how grievers can feel emotionally numb, unable to feel the same intensity of joy or peace they once could. This is because when we bottle up grief, we also suppress other emotions. You may feel more in control by keeping your grief under wraps, but the side effect is becoming more numb to other feelings too, including positive emotions.
Our unresolved grief can cause us to become overwhelmed or even depressed. If we do not give ourselves the opportunity to express our emotions, we may become stuck in a cycle of grief that can be difficult to break. Taking part in activities that allow us to express our feelings can help us to stay focused on the present and prevent us from getting emotionally stuck.
Grief can prevent us from looking after ourselves. The intense emotions that come with grieving can be so overwhelming that it can be hard to find the motivation or energy to take care of ourselves. Grief can also bring about a sense of hopelessness which can make it difficult to have a positive outlook on life, or to see the value of engaging in self-care.
We may feel guilty for wanting to take time for ourselves, or for engaging in activities that don’t relate to our grief. We may also be so focused on our grief that we forget to take care of ourselves, and can become neglectful of our own needs.
The emotional and psychological strain of grief can take a toll on relationships too, making it difficult to maintain close and meaningful connections. Our reluctance to talk about our grief can cause us to become more withdrawn and less likely to be open with our feelings, which can lead to communication breakdowns.
Grief can also lead to an increase in conflict, as we struggle to cope with our emotions and to find ways to support each other. We may also feel less able to trust or rely on our friends and family, leading to an increased sense of insecurity and anxiety.
Creating Outlets for Our Grief
Creating a healthy outlet for our grief is not the same thing as keeping ourselves so busy that we have no time to address how we’re feeling. Rather, finding healthy outlets for our grief is a constructive way to express our feelings in a safe and supportive environment.
This can be done by talking to a friend or family member, or by participating in support groups. It can also be helpful to write in a journal, take up a creative hobby, or participate in mindfulness activities such as walks in nature with a friend. All of these activities can help to provide an outlet for our emotions and encourage us to process our feelings in a healthy way.
Also, make time to engage in self-care activities. Self-care is an important part of the healing process and can be a great way to manage grief. Some activities that can be beneficial include getting regular exercise, reading, writing, and spending time outdoors. Allowing yourself time to rest and engage in activities you enjoy.
Finally, don’t feel like you're failing if you need to talk to a professional. Grief counselling can be an ideal way to process grief in a safe and supportive environment. Our directory of Grief Specialists can help you to explore your feelings and help you to work through them in a constructive way. They can also provide you with strategies for managing your grief moving forward.
Remember, it is normal to experience waves of emotion that can come and go, but it is important to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Talking to a Grief Specialist can help you to understand and process the emotions that you are experiencing, and provide you with the tools to manage them in a healthy way.
Tracey Mills is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist based in East Sussex, near Brighton and Eastbourne. Tracey offers one-to-one personal sessions and group workshops. In her own words Tracey "Wants to help you feel the joy of life again, because I know it is possible after loss". You can learn more about Tracey here.