Grief and Health

Grief is love not wanting to let go.

Grief is painful. It is about letting go and saying goodbye. For so many people, the pain of grief is as acute as physical pain. In our society, the emotional pain of grief is often overlooked. Experiencing the pain and shedding tears, talking to someone about the loss and turning to friends or family for support is a vital part of our healing process. Grief is a natural, normal and necessary part of our humanity. Grief is your emotional response to a loss of any kind.

The word bereavement comes from a word meaning “torn up”, a feeling many of you will readily associate with. It feels as if you have been stripped of something, of having your heart torn open.

Grief takes many forms, death of a loved one, loss of independence, loss of a home, moving home, loss of a beloved pet, loss of sight or hearing, are just a few of natural losses that cause great anguish.

Any of these reactions may occur after a loss and if you recognise them, it may help to know that you are experiencing what many, many people go through, and although no one can know how deeply you feel, you also know that these reactions are normal:

  • Feelings: sadness, anxiety, insecurity, loneliness, fatigue, helplessness, shock, yearning for the loved one, relief, numbness. Songs you hear may bring enormous sadness to you as they remind you of your loved one and the special times you shared.
  • Physical reactions: hollowness in the stomach, pain in the heart, tightness in the chest, tightness in the throat, oversensitive to noise, breathlessness, weakness in the muscles, lack of energy, dry mouth, susceptibility to viruses, cold sores and rashes.
  • Cognitive disturbances: disbelief, confusion, preoccupation, sense of the presence of the loved one.
  • Behaviour changes: appetite disturbances, sleep disturbances, absent mindedness, withdrawal from friends or family, dreams of the loved one, searching and calling out, sighing, restlessness, overactivity, crying, treasuring objects that belonged to your loved one.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you can help your own healing by doing things such as having a cuppa with someone, talking, sharing, writing these feelings down, writing imaginary letters to your loved one, (you don’t need to post them, just the act of writing is a healing process, studies have shown that your immune system is boosted!) crying alone or with someone who has also suffered a loss. Your tears even help remove chemicals linked to stress and that helps in healing. It is healthy to cry! If you have a pet, pat it often, stroking pets is also very healing.

Once you have recognised these symptoms, reactions and feelings in yourself, you will be able to help others who are going through the same pain. You will be able to reassure them that they are not going crazy, they are simply saying goodbye to their loved one, with all of their being.

A grief shared, makes the burden lighter.

For grief counselling, bereavement support group information or pastoral care, please phone Hopewell on 5563 2930 and for specialised support for children suffering loss, trauma, bereavement call Paradise Kids on 07 5574 6853.