Health Hint! – Managing Grief

Jun 2, 2021

Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness.  We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life.  Check out our latest Health Hint on how to manage grief.  We hope you find it helpful.  If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities. 

Grief is our body’s natural response to loss (Smith et al., 2020) and it can be experienced both physically and emotionally.  Grief is not exclusive to the loss of a person; we can experience grief in response to the loss of many things.  The loss of a loved one, the breakdown of a relationship, losing a pet, moving out of a long-term home, the loss of a job, and so on.  There is no rule as to what is worthy of grief.  If the loss of something is painful for you than you are entitled to grieve it. 

The pain of loss, and the many feelings that come along with it, can be overwhelming and at times, all consuming.  Everyone experiences grief in different ways, but some of the feelings that can come along with it include sadness, fatigue, feeling despondent, anger, fatigue, body aches, lethargy, insomnia, loss of appetite, and many more (Smith et al., 2020).  One persons grief may look completely different from another person’s, and that’s okay. 

Similar to how there is no “right” way to experience grief, there is also no “right” timeline for how long your grief should last.  The old adage of “time heals all wounds” speaks the truth as healing happens gradually.  As much as we would like to fast forward through these difficult feelings, that is not possible and you ultimately have to give them time to be felt and to pass. For some people that takes weeks, for some its months, and for others its years (Cancer.Net, 2018).  Often the more significant the loss, the more intense the feelings of grief will be and the longer they may last (Smith et al., 2020).  The most important thing is to be patient with yourself, give yourself grace for the process you need to go through, and know that your feelings are valid.

Many of us have heard of the five stages of grief, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, which include 1) denial, 2) anger, 3) bargaining, 4) depression, and 5) acceptance (Cancer.Net, 2018).  As discussed, grief does not follow an exact script, so your experience may or may not align with these stages but they do tend to encompass some of the stages people go through in their grieving process.  It is also important to know that, if you do experience these stages, you may not go through them in this order (Gregory, 2021).  Your grief may not be that linear, so you may find yourself experiencing denial, anger, bargaining, and then anger again and a bit more denial, and then finally acceptance or depression. 

With time you will need to work through your grief and move towards healing.  The Help Guide (Smith et al., 2020) provides these tips on how to move through the healing process:

1. Acknowledge your pain.

2. Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions.

3. Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.

4. Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you.

5. Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.

6. Recognize the difference between grief and depression.

With time, patience, and healing your grief will begin to lessen with time, you will learn to live with your loss, and you will begin to feel more positive emotions.

We hope you liked out latest Health Hint!

References:

Cancer.Net Editorial Board (2018). Coping with Grief. Cancer.Net. https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/managing-emotions/grief-and-loss/coping-with-grief

Smith, M., Robinson, L. & Segal, J. (2020). Coping with Grief and Loss. Help Guide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm

Gregory, C. (2021). The Five Stages of Grief. Psycom. https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.grief.html

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Sarah Wood

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email: sarah.wood2@ontario.ca

 

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