5 Habits to support loss and grief

Anna Maplesden is a Counsellor and Training Facilitator specialising in trauma, change, loss and bereavement.

In this blog, Anna explores difficulties of loss and grief and some habits to try and from which may help.

Living through the pandemic may have brought you unexpectedly closer to feelings of loss and grief. These feelings are a shared human experience that do not discriminate against age; gender; cultural background or status because in living a life its natural not to feel like your ‘normal self’ when distanced or separated from something or someone that you care about. The way forward may feel daunting.

Losing a friend, colleague or loved one can be one of the most difficult experiences to adjust to, and likely to provoke a whole range of familiar and unfamiliar reactions in you, known as grief. These feelings might include numbness, worry, anger, disbelief, guilt, sadness, longing and loneliness which can also be felt physically in the body through tiredness, lethargy, aches, pains, sleeplessness, reduced appetite and headaches.

What often gets hidden is the similar feelings felt in response to ambiguous losses where there is uncertainty:

  • lack of safety

  • threats to job / financial security

  • relationship difficulties

  • caring for someone

  • managing mental or physical ill-health

Regardless of the situation, the feelings can be hard to explain and difficult to understand so some people will use metaphors

'It is like being a small boat pounded by waves in an unrelenting storm'

It's important to find your way with your experience as there is no definitive timeline or rights and wrongs. You may be an intuitive griever who can express how you feel more openly eg: talking or crying about the situation so it may be important to keep connected and have the time and space to talk. However, you might be an instrumental griever preferring to be more private, thinking things through and focusing on problem solving activities. Ensure that your solutions are in manageable steps taking one day at a time. You may move between both styles but whichever you can relate to it is a fact that you are going to need different things practically and emotionally at different times.

Here are 5 habits:

1. Accept the situation

Although you may feel numb and in shock to start with try to accept the situation has happened. Understand that you are going to be changed by this experience but that you can learn to adjust.

2. Acknowledge your feelings

Try not to deny or push your feelings away as leaving them unattended can lead to other difficulties for your mental health such as anxiety and depression. Complicated grief occurs when someone has become stuck in their feelings; becomes more isolated and is finding it hard to do their usual day to day activities. This may be a sign that you need to check-in with your GP.

3. Re-evaluate your expectation

Bring awareness to how you talk to yourself about loss and grief by avoiding “shoulds” and “musts”. Aim to give yourself time and be your own compassionate friend – what do you need to offer yourself that you would probably find much easier to offer another?

4. Plan ahead

If you know that a trigger such as a key date; anniversary; important meeting is looming consider what you need on that day; who’s in your support network and what you can do to respond to your needs.

5. Give time to self-care activities

Consider keeping a diary about your thoughts and feelings; de-stress by maintaining physical movement; invest time in continuing to do the things you enjoy; keep connected with those who bring comfort; you are going to need energy to get you through so hydrate and attend to your diet, taking additional rest if needed.