Unfortunately, loss and grief are an inevitable part of life. But the experience is different and unique for each person. Some may go about their daily life seemingly unaffected, while others think their life will never be the same. You may feel distressed, facing grief right now. It can take a toll on your mental health. Giving yourself time to grieve and accept the loss is crucial to moving on.
Loss and Grief
The Oxford Dictionary defines loss as the state of no longer having something. But it is more than that; it is the feeling you have when you lose someone. You have experienced a loss. Grief is the natural response to that feeling. If you let it, grief will allow you to mourn your loss appropriately and start the healing process.
Unfortunately, many people turn to less healthy coping mechanisms. By diving into work to avoid your emotions, you can hinder your grieving process. You might exhibit some compulsive behaviors to minimize your feelings. Misuse of substances can also be a way for you to avoid your emotional discomfort with loss and grief.
Types of Loss
When you think of loss, you may only be thinking in terms of the death of a loved one. But there are several other ways to experience loss:
- When kids grow up or leave home
- Death or disappearance of your pet
- Losing your job, income, or title
- Significant life changes such as divorce or retirement
- Moving and being separated by distance from loved ones
Stages of Grief
If you have experienced a loss or seen any movie with a funeral, you have heard something about the stages of grief. There are varying numbers of steps or differing orders because grief is not linear. Your emotions will come and go and may come back again with a triggering event.
You can cycle quickly through the stages as you process the changes and try to adapt to your new reality.
This stage is almost always the first stage. It can also feel like shock or numbness. You may struggle to believe the reality of what is happening. This stage is protective and prevents you from experiencing the intensity of the loss all at once. You will slowly acknowledge the impact as you take care of the necessary tasks like notifying others, reviewing documents, or funeral planning. Your feelings of disbelief and denial should fade.
You will naturally feel angry when you feel powerless or helpless. It can also stem from feelings of abandonment. This stage commonly follows after denial, but you can also become angry throughout any of the other steps.
The hallmark of this stage is having thoughts of what you could have done differently to prevent the loss or death. When the loss is traumatic, or you are not processing your feelings well, you can become obsessed with these scenarios. You can have intense anger or guilt that lingers if you cannot move through this stage, interfering with your healing process.
This stage comes with the realization of the loss’s impact on your life. You will exhibit symptoms of clinical depression such as poor appetite, difficulty sleeping, low energy, and crying at times. You may want to isolate yourself when you feel empty, hopeless, lonely, self-pity, or anxious. These reactions become less intense over time.
If the feelings become overwhelming, are persistent, and interfere with your daily life, continue to get worse, or you start thinking about suicide, get professional help immediately.
Over time, you will come to terms with the loss you have experienced. Once the loss is accepted, healing can begin. Again, this can happen quickly, or it can take a while. There is no set timetable for grief.
Grief’s Toll on Your Mental Health
Processing loss is an emotional rollercoaster, and it affects your mental wellbeing. We all deal with loss and grief in our own ways. You can grieve and continue with your daily responsibilities when you have healthy coping skills. When you haven’t already learned these coping skills, the emotions can become overwhelming. Your grief can become chronic and turn into diagnosable depression. In rare cases, grief can even trigger psychosis.
Grief and Depression
If you have a family history of mental illness or are already diagnosed with a mental illness, grief can exacerbate it or bring on another underlying disorder. Seeking professional help is the best way to minimize your risk of long-term depression and help you move through your grieving process. Speaking with someone trained in loss and grief can help you reach acceptance. Antidepressants are another treatment option available. Suppose you have already been struggling with depression or have medication-resistant depression. In that case, TMS therapy for depression may be the best option for dealing with the underlying problem while tackling your grief. Speak with your doctor or a TMS specialist about your options.
Grief is a part of life that is unavoidable. You will experience mixed emotions of anger, loneliness, and sadness. Giving yourself time to acknowledge your positive and negative emotions will help you through this process. Lean on your support network by opening up to family or friends about what you are going through. Writing in a journal or a letter to the lost one can be an outlet or release for your grief. Find your way through processing your loss in your own time, but don’t wait until you are drowning in grief to get help.