Grief... The Unspoken Emotion.
Grief is such a small, understated word. It is something that we will all have gone through in life, and will experience at some point again in the future. Despite this, it remains one of the most unspoken emotions in our society.
Grief comes in many different forms. Most of us will relate to the feelings of grief from losing a loved one, but it can also link to the loss of a job, perhaps a life that you feel you no longer have, or a friendship that has faded over time.
How Can You Describe Grief?
That’s a toughie… because for me, it is a culmination of a number of emotions, if not every single negative emotion that we are capable of feeling.
My first experience of grief was at the age of 11 when my last remaining Grandparent, my Grandad, passed away. I can remember feeling a great sadness, struggling to comprehend the fact that we wouldn’t ever see him again (in this lifetime anyway!) He lived to be 81 and had fought in World War 2, he had experienced a great deal in his lifetime. What shocked me the most, was watching the affect it had on my Dad. The 6ft 2 “man’s man” who never showed emotion, was in floods of tears as we received the phone call from my uncle in the middle of the night. A flip side to this, was I also remember noticing my older sister in this situation, who didn’t shed a single tear. She must’ve been sad too surely, right?
My second experience with loss was when I was 16. Two of my closest friends turned up to my place of work to give me the news that my ex-boyfriend had died the previous night in a car accident. This time, I had the added shock factor. My initial thought was that they were coming to tell me he had a new girlfriend, which I ended up wishing that was what it was. At 18 years old, he was so young and was robbed of the future he and his family deserved. This news hit me like a freight train. Somebody that was no longer in my life, but I cared for so deeply had died such a horrific way. Did he know I still cared for him? Perhaps if we were still together it wouldn’t have happened?
Finally, the big one. I was 23 and expecting my first child, my husband and I lived with my parents as we had relocated back home from the coast. My dad had started experiencing digestive problems, and in hindsight I feel like I always knew which way it was going. I remember voicing my concerns to my Mum, “what if… it will be like one in and one out…” After a traumatic birth resulting in an emergency caesarean my daughter came into the world! I had 2 hours of her life to just simply basque in how wonderful she was, until I had a call from my Mum to tell me that my Dad’s results were back and that he was diagnosed with Oesophagul Cancer. That moment shaped the rest of my adult life. Never before have I felt such a responsibility with a newborn baby, and little did I know what lied ahead with all that goes with a terminal illness, the appointments, the debilitating symptoms of disease, and finally watching someone pass over from this world, is something you simply can’t put into words. We had 6 precious months left with him, which I tried to cherish as much as I could, but everything was tainted with a bitter after taste. Was this the last time? Each appointment would be yet more bad news, but news we didn’t need to be honest, as the decline in his health was so clear in his well being and demeanour. I was a nervous wreck, I felt like every day was a waiting game, was my Mum going to wake us up tonight with some news or a sudden decline in his situation? The guilt… oh the guilt! I was a new Mum, caring for a dying Father, where was I supposed to give my attention? No matter what I did, or who I did something for, I felt like I was neglecting the other. I was angry, so so angry. Yes, he wasn’t young, but he was by no means old. I was angry that I am the youngest sibling, it wasn’t fair that I didn’t have as long with him as my siblings did. I have never experienced sadness, heartbreak, guilt, and so much raw emotion at once.
The Only Way Is Up
One thing about being at rock bottom, is that the only way is up. It’s a slow process, and one you should take day by day, but you need to allow yourself to feel all the emotions. It’s ok to feel what you need to, there may be resentment, guilt, injustice, sadness, fear of the unknown ahead, loneliness, and all of them are absolutely FINE to feel!
Grief can be so much more than an emotion, it can come out in lots of physical ways too, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Chest pain
- Stomach pain
If you are worried about any of these symptoms then you should always seek professional medical help.
Charities & Helplines
Winston’s Wish https://www.winstonswish.org/
Child Bereavement UK https://www.childbereavementuk.org/
Cruse Bereavement Care http://www.cruse.org.uk/home
Although talking is an excellent therapy, sometimes we can also carry the guilt of “burdening”. Whilst we can tell you that you won’t ever be a burden to those who love you, you need to feel ready to open up to others and this can take time. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’d say if you tried.
Journaling is a fantastic tool that anyone can use, for almost anything! Writing down your thoughts and feelings hold such a powerful energetic release. It can help you view things clearer and even realise your own true feelings and desires. It doesn’t even need to make sense as noone will see it apart from you and you can even destroy it afterwards if you are concerned about someone finding it. You may not be sure where to start, but almost certainly once you have started, you will find it flows out of you freely.
Here are some journal prompts that could help you deal with your grief:
- Who are you grieving and why?
- What is the hardest time of day for you?
- What is your fondest memory?
- Who are your support network?
- What do you wish that your family/friends would say or do?
- It’s is helpful when….?
- What temporarily eases the pain?
- If I could talk to that person now, what would they say to me?
- How can I best remember them? (collating all your favourite pictures and creating a scrapbook, finding inspirational quotes that resonate with you)
- Keep a mood diary – there will be good days and bad days and realising that your mood and feelings can switch, allowing it to flow freely is important during the stages of grief.
If You Know Someone Is Grieving
Be patient – it can be difficult when you desperately want to help someone, but you must remember to be patient and go at their pace. They may blurt it all out to you instantly, or they may be more reserved and need time to process their loss.
Listening – sometimes saying nothing can be the biggest help of all. There is rarely a ‘silver lining’ to losing something in life. Although society often wants us to see the good in a situation, when you are grieving it is important to know that your feelings are justified.
Just being present with them will be a help. Knowing that they can turn to you whenever they need to will be a massive help to them, even if they don’t take you up on it. Please don’t be offended if they don’t turn to you, sometimes it’s hard to talk to those closest to us and it can be beneficial to seek help from someone detached from the situation, such as a charity or with someone who has been through a similar experience.