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6 Ways Grief Can Make You Wonder If You’ll Ever Be OK.

grief

With the holidays and early winter being statistically the most popular season to die, late winter can be a time of grief for many survivors left to face life without a loved one – an experience that can feel overwhelming, destabilizing, and confusing. We all know that it is normal to feel sad for a while when we lose a loved one, but grief is often much bigger than just sadness, making it hard to feel like yourself. You might even wonder if you are crazy, and mentally ill. At its worst, grief make you wonder if you’ll ever be OK.

You’re not crazy if you feel it; grief is real, and grief is suffered. It means you loved someone, deeply. And now, everything is different. More than just being sad, grief can have many different faces, affects everyone differently, and is a process.

Understanding and recognizing some of the surprising aspects of normal grief can help you get a better handle on your experience so that you can take at least one thing off your over-flowing plate: you don’t need to worry that you’re going crazy.

  1. Tearfulness: Of course grief is sadness, and the gut-wrenching pain of missing a loved one you weren’t ready to let go. We want them back. We want things how they were. We don’t want to change and from this the tears seem to keep coming. Sometimes they seem like they won’t stop, are real, and can sometimes be unpredictable, and even scary. You might wonder if you will ever stop crying… You will, but for everyone the pace of healing is different. Luckily, shedding tears are one of the most efficient things you can do to facilitate healing.
  1. Apathy: Grief can feel like you are walking through quicksand, literally at times. You go through the motions of everyday, but things take longer and everything feels harder. Your energy only goes so far, and it just doesn’t feel like you have enough. Worse, you might not care. Grieving is hard work, and it takes a toll on your energy.  The good news is that with time, you will regain your interests and your energy again, as you adjust mentally and emotionally to your new reality.
  1. Grumpiness: Coping with loss can make even the most easy going person irritable – life just isn’t right anymore, and it feels like it might never be again. This simmering frustration with anew reality can loom in the background of everything you do, and consume a lot of your precious energy, leaving less energy and patience for others, and yourself. Understanding the physical and emotional causes of your irritability can help you recognize it, and mitigate its prominence by taking better care of yourself and slowing down.
  1. Mental Fog: Grief can make it hard to sustain attention and concentrate, leaving you feeling as mentally tired as you do physically. This might be one of the most distressing aspects of grief: feeling mentally depleted at a time when it can feel like you need everything you’ve got and more. Not only do life’s responsibilities march on, but often death can usher in even more responsibility. Laying a loved one – and their affairs – to rest requires focus, energy, attention to detail, and patience at a time when you simply aren’t at your best. Don’t worry if everything feels a bit harder than it should, or if you can’t accomplish the things you usually can. You’re not crazy, and you’re not at your best: you’re experiencing grief. Look for places where you can reduce your expectations of yourself for a while, whether cutting corners, or putting off nonessential tasks.
  1. Grief is shared: Losing a loved one is a family affair, and often occurs in the context of having to care for others while caring for yourself. Moreover, family discord can be fueled by a shared loss, as painful emotions and their typical coping mechanisms, run their course. Remembering that you aren’t the only one experiencing grief can help you be more compassionate to your loved ones, and to yourself.
  1. Sleep changes: Not only is grief emotionally draining, but it can be physically draining too. Sleep can be a victim of grief: it can become increasingly hard to go to and stay sleep, and for some, sleep doesn’t even feel restful. Dreams tend to amplify as you try to cope with this new reality, and loved ones are often the subject of these wishful dreams, making it harder to wake up to the grim reality of their loss. Try not to get spooked by these dreams – they are likely your mind’s way of processing the loss, and they are helping you learn to adjust to your new reality.

In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed what she called the five stages of grief, that can occur along the path to healing from a loss. In addition to elucidating the various expressions of loss, her model highlights grief as a fluid process, not a static event, that is different for everyone. Remembering that your grief will be your own unique experience can help you accept your process of healing, and be more gentle with yourself.

Being gentle can also involve getting help if you are stuck. There are numerous counselors, support groups, and other community resources dedicated to grief help often accessed by a quick google search, or a call to a trusted friend in-the-know. Asking for help when you need it is sometimes one of the bravest things you can do to take care of yourself.

Grieving takes time, and goes smoothest when it has space, time, and most importantly, love. At its core, grief is about love. The love for the departed that lives on in your heart, and the love that person had for you that lives on in you. Showing love to yourself and others is one of the best ways to honor the love you shared, and to facilitate your healing.

It will happen – give it love.

 

For many, anxiety can be a challenging component of grief, and complicate the healing journey. If you are looking for more help with anxiety, check out my new book, Hack Your Anxiety, or register for my free mini-ecourse by signing up for book bonuses here.

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

19 Comments

  1. Sagess on April 13, 2018 at 2:14 am

    People who are grieving are SO SICK of Kubler Ross’s ‘stages of grieving’…..she never meant it to be a GUIDEBOOK for grief. Sheesh.

  2. Rose on May 1, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Sagess, Kubler Ross is NOT a guidebook it’s information so people know some of the phases they may pass through. Sheesh

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 5, 2018 at 8:06 am

      Thanks Sagess and Rose for commenting.

      I agree Kubler Ross has given so much to our collective understanding of grief, and like Rose said, the stages and feelings that can accompany the process. But grief can bring irritability and frustration too, and it can feel torturous to accept the many painful realities of a loss. Being gentle with the process, whatever it is for you, is what I find helps the most.

      Wishing you both peace as you grow and heal,

      Alicia

  3. Danny on May 29, 2018 at 1:52 am

    Thank you so much; I needed this so desperately today!

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 30, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      Glad it was helpful. Hang in there, Danny.

  4. Cathy Hutto on July 10, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Very helpful to me I feel like I’m loosing my mind. Almost 4 months since my daughter passed. I miss her so bad ……

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on July 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm

      Oh Cathy, I’m so sorry to hear this. Hang in there, and know that you are not losing your mind. You simply are grieving a terrible loss. Be gentle with yourself and you will get through this.
      All my best,
      Alicia

    • Lee Ann on August 8, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      Cathy, I feel the pain that you’re are feeling right now!? I lost my only child on April 3, 2018. Somedays I feel as if I’m in a fog…We have to hang in here. I pray God’s peace & strength for anyone who loses a loved one…especially parents who loses a child.??❤Lee Ann

      • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on August 13, 2018 at 12:07 pm

        Lee Ann,
        Hoping you are finding peace as you move through this terrible loss. My deepest sympathies are with you and your family.
        Alicia

  5. Margaret on September 1, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    It has been 7 months since I lost my husband We were together for 42 years. I fell more tired and foggy than I did last month. How long is this supposed to last.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on September 3, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      Dear Margaret,

      I’m so sorry to hear of your husband’s death and how difficult your grief has been. Unfortunately there is no agreed upon timeline on when and how symptoms improve – only that they do with time. Expect waves of grief to come, and being gentle with yourself can help minimize their disruption when they do. People report the intensity and frequency of grief lessens with time.

      However, grief can be complicated and escalate other issues sometimes. If your symptoms worsen, become more complicated, or do not improve, talk to your doctor or seek the help of a professional. There is help, and you are not alone.

      All my best to you,

      Alicia

  6. Sushicam on September 8, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    Don’t expect to “get past it.” Grief will be your lifetime companion, and you’ll get used to it. Each loss is like an amputation. You don’t “get over it;” you learn to live with it.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on September 23, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      Well said, Sushicam.

  7. Karen Bayless on December 4, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    I lost my husband of almost 43 years 4 months ago. For the past 4 weeks I have had a temperature of 99.5 to 99.9 and extremely tired. I’ve had to stay in bed. I thought it was the flu. I finally went to the doctor today. He couldn’t find anything definitely. He just said I must have some kind of virus that keeps returning. I wonder if grief could cause this. I cry hard daily & my temp does go up then. I have no family near by. My husband was my best friend.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on January 4, 2019 at 2:21 pm

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I’m so very sorry to hear about your husband’s death. I can only imagine the deep grief you are feeling, and 4 months is simply not a lot of time to heal. The grieving process is different for everyone, and in my experience can last well into a year. I’m glad you went to the doctor to be checked; grieving is hard work, and adjusting to life without a loved one can be a daily struggle.

      My first suggestion is to be gentle with yourself, and to expect grief to continue as it needs to. Losing your best friend is nothing easy to face. But with time, and support, grief should give way to your new life, and your mood should continue to climb. If this doesn’t happen, I would also recommend reaching out for professional support – be it a support group, a grief counselor, or a psychiatrist. If you don’t have any leads in your area, try asking your doctor for a referral.

      Wishing you all the best as you face the months ahead, and grow into this next life chapter.

      Alicia

  8. John on January 29, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    It’s been 2 weeks since my Mom passed. I miss her terribly. I am having a particularly bad day today. I had to cry as I was reading. I have always been very active and high energy, but now I get tired very quickly. Mom and I were very close. I feel like she lives inside me. I keep remembering all the things we did and said over the years. It is very comforting to me. I am starting bereavement support next week.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on January 29, 2019 at 6:05 pm

      I’m so sorry to learn of your mom’s passing. Losing a loved one is never easy, and the pain of loss can be viceral. I am glad you are reading about grief, and reaching out for support, and hope you will keep looking for ways to process this terrible loss and heal. Wishing you strength and peace, Alicia

  9. Judy on March 13, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    I lost my dad 5 months ago. He stayed with my family a lot and It’s been really hard without him. He was such a great grandfather and really a part of my children’s lives. It’s really hard to accept that he will not be here for all of the milestones we have coming up. It’s makes me feel like I am having trouble being a present mom because I am feeling so sad. I am here each day for my kids but I feel like my mind is somewhere else. Praying for the mother who mentioned a loss of a child. God bless you.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 6, 2019 at 5:09 pm

      Gosh, I’m so sorry to hear about your terrible loss.
      Hang in there during this difficult time. Grief can be so very hard, but it also is a process that evolves and can ultimately be healing.
      Wishing you patience and self-love,
      Alicia

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