Grief

How To Thrive After A Loss, According To A Psychologist

You can — and will — survive this difficult time.

11 hours ago

The Heartbreaking Reason I Dread My Daughter’s Birthday

This birthday party reminds me that someone is missing. She would have been seven today too.

2 days ago

8 Things I Learned When My Sister Died

Three years later, it’s still sinking in…

March 19, 2018

The Devastation Of Having A Miscarriage While Your Friend Has A Baby

I didn’t know how to be happy for her and mourn for me at the same time.

March 15, 2018

Getting Over It: Why You Need To Treat Your Divorce Like A Death

Even when it’s for the best, divorce is still a loss.

December 17, 2017

6 Weird Grief Things No One Tells You To Expect After A Parent Dies

“Grief was like a seizure that shook me like a storm” – author Patricia Cornwell.

November 2, 2017

There’s No Wrong Way To Grieve About The Vegas Shooting

Whatever you’re feeling right now is okay.

October 2, 2017

The Myth of Being Over Depression

You only ever really temporarily come up for air before being pulled back under.

March 24, 2017

It May Be Time to Ditch Your Coping Mechanisms

We can’t just cope forever. Eventually we have to heal.

March 10, 2017

How Water Helped Me Heal From My Mother’s Death

There’s something in the water.

September 29, 2016

How To Support A Friend Struggling With Grief

It’s hard to know what to say or do when one of your friends is dealing with grief. Grief is so different to all of us and we go through multiple stages of loss that affect all individuals in different ways. You can never truly relate to someone else’s grief, just like no one can truly relate to yours because everyone’s experiences are all so diverse.

RELATED: What Not To Say To Someone With Depression

While your friend is struggling with grief, the best thing you can do for them is be a line of support. Listening with compassion and empathy is very important so that your friend knows that you’re there for them. Simply listening is sometimes one of the best things you can do while your friend lets out their feelings to you, but other times, be prepared to sit in silence with them; just having your presence will show your support.

Accepting and acknowledging the feelings without minimising the loss that your friend is going through is also very important. It’s also best not to offer personal advice or mention anything about moving past this or what you have to be grateful for. While someone is grieving, let them grieve and accept the loss on their own terms. There is no time limit on grief, and we all work on our emotions differently.

That being said, offering long term support is important in knowing how your friend is healing. Making assumptions about how a person looks means that you could be overlooking how they are still feeling inside. Long term support means accepting how they’re feeling and helping out on special days such as birthdays or anniversaries.

Physical support is also often needed, such as grocery shopping, taking kids to school, looking after pets and helping with meals. Often grief can overwhelm a person, leaving them feeling helpless and as if their life is out of control. Giving physical support can help things continue smoothly so your friend can grieve properly.

Support is the one thing that your friend needs while going through a period of grief, so never underestimate just being there for someone. It’s a hard part of life for the both of you, but having a friend through this time is one of the most important ways to show that you care.

Image via blokesupport.com.au

September 7, 2015

Why We Need To Say The Words “I Love You”

Saying I love you can never be said enough to the people we cherish. People often assume others know how they feel, but it’s not always the case. People who mean so much to us like our partner, parents, kids, family or closest friends need to hear the words “I love you” just as much as we all need to say it.

RELATED: Coping With Grief

There’s plenty of ways people say it everyday, but some feel uncomfortable saying the words out aloud so it goes left unsaid. Life’s unpredictable and the one thing we know for certain is that none of us are immortal.

While we’re all busy living, the last thing many of us consider is just how quickly life can be taken from both ourselves or a loved one. For some, it’s a thought too raw to contemplate, yet each and every day we put ourselves at risk – we drive cars, go to work, cross the street and get on with living. So if tragedy strikes, as many people have experienced, the opportunity to tell others how we really feel is all but lost.

I recently went to the funeral of an incredibly close, irreplaceable friend and these three little words were the way we always ended our conversations. It may sound lame or even morbid, but it’s not something we wanted left unsaid if it was the last time we spoke. Although the pain of losing such a significant person has been intense, it’s been comforting to know that this was the very last thing we got to say.

At the funeral, I noticed others weren’t so lucky. Saying “I love you” was the one thing people wished they’d said more. Amid their tears was the question: “Did they know how I felt… Did they know I loved them?” No one can really know or answer that question with certainty for them – their loved one is gone and they’ll never really be sure.

So why leave that to chance? It’s three little words and to those closest to us, it should be a pleasure to say. No one should ever feel embarrassed about the feelings they have for others and should always be able to proclaim it.

There are people who like to shelter their feelings from the world, and while some might tell their partner, others will avoid it altogether. Saying “I love you” to their closest friends is a different story, also. Some need to learn and understand that it’s not pathetic or unmasculine to say “I love you” or a similar variation to each other. Is “love ya mate” so difficult to say? For some, yes it is, but we all need to get past it.

So, for this reason, we need to say “I love you” to those we care about. Not to everyone, but to those people who make our lives what it is. With every call, every goodbye and every conversation, make it a habit to end the conversation with how you feel. That way, if something were to happen, there won’t be those unanswered questions – you’ll have said what you intended to say if it was the very last time you spoke. Grief is hard and knowing you said “I love you” makes it easier.

March 30, 2015

Grieving For Loved Ones Over Christmas

Have you been feeling a bit off and can’t put your finger on why? Sure, life is pretty hectic with everyone wanting to get ready for the silly season, but what if it’s more than that? For many people, the lead up to Christmas is a time when they experience grief without being consciously aware of it.

Unfortunately, grief is something we all experience and the realization of lost loved ones is most prominent when families gather at Christmas. For most, it will be due to the passing of a loved one. Tragically, for others it will be the devastation that a loved one is missing. Either way, there is a significant loss and Christmas time can surface emotions which are out of our control.

Regardless of the circumstances the first Christmas is always the most extreme. This is a time when grief is raw and emotions are fragile. It is a very personal experience, so some loved ones will grieve much longer and far more profound than others.

As the years pass by it can get a little easier, however, upon the lead up to Christmas some people aren’t aware of why they experience changes. This can also happen upon the lead up to birthdays and anniversaries. Individuals may get upset easily or feel lethargic, tired, irritated or depressed. It’s a strange phenomenon which happens to many people and is difficult for individuals to comprehend. All they know is that they feel bad, but can’t put an explanation on why.

Strangely, after these events pass, this feeling eases. However, it’s during this time that individuals may experience changes in their behavior. These include insomnia, changes in appetite, loss of desire, plus some may partake in erratic behavior like consuming too much alcohol, taking drugs or gambling.

It’s when routine behaviors shift, that they can indicate symptoms of much deeper issues. So if someone is sliding into altered or unhealthy behaviors, there is usually a reason why. Instead of focusing on the behavior, you need to look past them and acknowledge the underlying feelings and emotions that are causing them.

Once these are identified, the feelings and emotions can be addressed. In most cases, it’s grief rearing its ugly head. It’s an exceptionally uncomfortable emotion and people avoid it any way they can. Instead of avoiding grief, it is an emotion that is best tackled head on. The only way to do this is to acknowledge it for what it is. That may be easier said than done because there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There are only healthy and unhealthy alternatives.

Below are some recommended healthy alternatives to survive times such as Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries, when grief mysteriously appears.

1. Acknowledge grief for what it is.
2. Put extra focus on maintaining your mental health.
3. Eat properly.
4. Avoid alcohol and drugs, including irregular prescription medications, like Valium.
5. Get extra exercise.
6. Know that it’s ok to cry.
7. Talk about your loss and the feelings associated with it.
8. Do things which make you feel good.
9. Avoid isolating yourself.
10. Ask for help if and when you need it.

Lastly, if you or someone you love is overwhelmed with grief, please seek medical assistance. There may be something else wrong, which is masking itself as grief, so if unsure, make an appointment with a GP so they can run tests and make referrals to specialists if required. Look after yourselves and your loved ones and comfort each other in times of need.

Image via preludetoamidlifecrisis.files.wordpress.com

December 7, 2014

Weekend Wit: The Break-up Blues

Ever had the break-up blues? You might wonder why on earth we’d make light of that but, when you think about it, it really is one of life’s most pathetic moments. It’s not a memory you want to savour, take photos and stick up on your Facebook page, now is it?

Then again some people put everything on social media. He’s dumped me. I’m crying. I’m listening to sad songs and crying. Oh, the pain! Seriously, no one wants to see that crap. Imagine your next job interview? They do ask for your social media links, these days. You didn’t know that? Well, you do now!

Having seen your last 50 Facebook statuses or hearing it via the gossip vine, friends and family may try to console and comfort you. What’s with that? You are miserable. It’s no secret. You certainly won’t be the best company. Why would anyone in their right mind want to spend time with someone who is miserable?

Bottom line: It makes them uncomfortable. They need you to feel good, so they can feel good. Basic social psychology, folks. You thought it was your selfish stage to mourn and grieve, right? No. It’s your friends and relatives selfish stage. They have the best of intentions, but they are usually blissfully unaware of what they are doing or why.

That won’t last long though. Miserable people repel others. You’ve been whinging, whining and totally obsessed with your broken heart and your ex. Ever time they try to change the subject, because you’ve driven them crazy, you change it right back. They need to get as far away from you as possible. NOW – before they crack!

This is when you’ve learned break-ups are best handled alone. You can begin to grieve without distraction. Instead of hiding tears when your friends suggest watching a comedy and something reminds you of your ex, you can ball your damn eyes out. You can avoid showering, eating right, maybe drink too much, avoid sunlight, ditch work, and generally make a complete and utter mess of yourself. Now, this here is your selfish stage!

Maybe this is what your well meaning friends and relies were trying to save you from. Yeah? No. Be 100 per cent, research assured, it was their needs they were tying to meet, but weren’t they useful while they were doing it? At least you didn’t smell bad.

This period of chaos only ceases when you’ve hit rock bottom and you are faced with two very distinct options. The first is to pick yourself up, right here and now and get on with living.

Then there’s option two. Your job will go if you neglect going to work, that’s a given. Then, you’ll have no money. Makes sense doesn’t it? Homelessness will then become a very real probability. That is, unless you can manage to convince one of those well meaning friends or relies to take you in so you can “lounge surf” until you’re ok.

The only thing is the stress of having no fixed address, no job, no money and, of course, no partner will be considered stressors, in psych terms, and provide ideal conditions to bring on an episode of mental illness. What? You don’t think this happens? You clearly haven’t spoken to any homeless men!

Yes, folks. This is the grim reality of the break up blues. Next time those “helpful” friends and relies come to the rescue; think back to option number two. Welcome them in. Thank all that is good and holy that they are selfish enough to want to come and save you!

Image via pad3.whstatic.com

November 1, 2014

Bad Break-up? How To Move On

Break-ups can feel like a death, except there is no funeral to go to and no gravesite to visit. It’s sheer grief, despair, loneliness and isolation. Sound familiar? There’s no quick fix and there’s no one size fits all way to cope; but nevertheless, you need to find a way and move on.

Grieve

Each person experiences grief differently. As long as it doesn’t affect your mental and physical health, do what you have done in the past when you have experienced a loss. For some, it will be the first time they have experienced this intense emotion. Check out this article on coping with grief for more information.

Time

Give yourself time to heal. Rebound relationships might take your mind off your ex, but it will be extra baggage you may need to deal with. Plus, is it unfair to the person you choose to rebound to. There is no designated time limit on how long you need to give yourself, but if you’ve been in a long term relationship, be aware it will take some time to learn to adjust to life without them.

Distance

Distancing yourself from your ex is essential. Avoid going to places where they might be, calling or texting them or listening to saved voice messages. All this will add to your pain and prolong your ability to move on. Plus, this is initially how stalking can develop. Listening to music which reminds you of them or looking at photos might be something you choose to do as you grieve but long-term this can be really unhealthy.

If you have mutual friends, avoid asking about your ex. If they choose to discuss your ex and it’s making you uncomfortable; politely ask them to stop. It would be better for you to choose to associate with your friends, rather than mutual friends, in initial stages. If you want to retain a friendship with them ask them to give you some time while to work through the break-up.

Look after your health

People often pick up addictive behaviours after a bad break-up, such as drinking, drugs or gambling. Avoid trying to block the pain with substances or overeating, as this can quickly become an exceptionally unhealthy coping mechanism. Look for healthy alternatives to fill the void you are experiencing. Be aware of how you have coped with stress and pain previously. If it’s been unhealthy, catch yourself quickly.

Moving forward

At some stage after the break-up, you will begin to feel better. The tears will flow less, emotions around the break-up will dissipate and life without your ex will become normal. At this stage, you can look toward the future.

Instead of rushing into the arms of the next waiting stranger, take things nice and slow. Although sex makes us all feel great, it can have the opposite effect if you are still hooked on another person. Date on a casual basis and, if you find someone you’d like to get to know better, do that. Take sex off the table for a while and develop a friendship first. Really get to know if this person is right for you or if you are needing them to fill a void.

Even though the initial stages of a break-up are exceptionally painful and difficult, love is the greatest experience a person can have. Life will go on and a new type of normal will emerge. You never know, as one door closes, another one will open. This is the adventure of this thing we call living.

October 7, 2014

Is Miscarriage The Last Taboo?

Miscarriage is a lot like a death without mourning. No one wants to talk about it – it’s like society’s last taboo. And I thought I knew a bit about dealing with grief, having lost my father to cancer in my late 20s, but nothing prepared me for the gut-wrenching shock and devastation of my first miscarriage.

RELATED: Getting Pregnant After Having A Miscarriage

When – close to the magical, all-important 12-week “safe” mark – I started to bleed and then doctors couldn’t find our baby’s heartbeat, I felt absolutely gutted. Sure, I knew miscarriage was common – it affects up to one in four women – but at 36, I was still utterly unprepared for it to happen to me.

“It’s probably your ageing eggs,” explained the ER doctor, unhelpfully, but not unkindly. “But it happens to women of all ages, all the time. Next time, we’ll see you in the labour ward with a healthy baby.”

As we left the hospital, me clutching the pink teddy bear they give to the bereaved, I didn’t believe that doctor for a second. I felt nothing but deep sadness and hopeless, dark despair. I did not see this coming – my husband and I had already prepared the nursery for our much-wanted child. Our hopes and dreams… Cruelly gone.

And I was traumatised, as was my husband, by seeing the images of our dead foetus on the ultrasound scan. These images would continue to haunt me, for months to come, both during the daylight and in my nightmares about the miscarriage.

And then there was the unfortunate timing – the miscarriage occurred the day before my husband’s 40th birthday. We’d actually been out at a top restaurant celebrating this milestone over a long, lavish lunch just prior to the ordeal. I first noticed I was bleeding in the restaurant toilets.

I felt like I’d failed my husband and myself. I was angry at my body – and the world. It took me months to fully physically recover from the miscarriage, as is typical, after I needed an emergency D&C when my body couldn’t expel our baby naturally, as it was too far along.

But the emotional and mental scars were far worse. Aside from the horrors of having to wait almost 24 hours for an emergency D&C at our local hospital; a cold, insensitive and unthinking young obstetrician calling the procedure a “sucky-out machine” (I kid you not!); I was my own worst nightmare.

I constantly headf***ed myself with endless “what-ifs”, which was both pointless and endlessly exhausting. What if that was our only baby? What if I’m too old to have another? What if I did something wrong?

Grief is a funny thing. You can think you’re over it and have properly mourned the loss and dealt with it, only to have something trigger fresh, new pain. It’s kind of like a scab that keeps getting picked at, drawing fresh blood. I took up boxing, kickboxing and yoga with gusto with which to busy myself and help me heal.

And prepare yourself sisters, for if you’re ever unlucky enough to suffer a miscarriage, people will want and need you to be OK again quickly. There is no time for mourning. Society doesn’t seem equipped to deal with parents’ grief, so we rush people’s healing along, thinking it helps them. It doesn’t. There’s no funeral, no acceptable grieving period when you miscarry.

Your much-wanted, precious baby has died, but countless well-meaning people will say to you: “Oh well, it was for the best,” or this other clanger, “At least the baby died early.” Or, “I know how you must be feeling: my grandma died…” or my other favourite: “It just wasn’t meant to be. Will you start trying again soon?”

None of this helps you, in the midst of your pain. And, wanting to please my loved ones, I hurried my pain along, willing it to end, so desperately wanting to be OK.

I returned to a very busy job a week after my D&C, when my head and heart were still breaking, with colleagues nervously eyeing me with a mixture of sympathy and awkwardness. I had a job to do; there was no time or space to not perform at my best.

Happily, with good love and support from each other, our family and friends, my husband and I recovered well and conceived a healthy baby girl just four months later. Our second gorgeous, healthy baby girl was born just 18 months after the first, following a very early miscarriage at six weeks. This was much, much less of a shock and far easier to cope with given it was so early and we already had one beautiful child.

Naturally, I was anxious every second, minute, hour of every day of both pregnancies until we got the all-clear at both the six-week and 12-week scans, but life had ultimately been very kind to us. For in the end, we got not one, but two much-wanted, precious healthy babies.

Fast Facts

  • October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
  • One in four parents experience the loss of a baby in Australia
  • October 15 is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It’s a day where families across the globe are asked to light a candle in remembrance of their baby whose life was too short due to miscarriage, stillbirth or postnatal causes. For more information, visit http://15october.com.au or http://www.pregnancylossaustralia.org.au.

If you need help dealing with your loss, phone Lifeline Australia’s 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services on 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue’s 24/7 service on 1300 22 4636.

 

October 6, 2014

How To Cope With Grief

The death of a loved one, relationship breakdown or loss of employment or finances? If you or a loved one is experiencing grief and loss, we have some survival tips to help you through it.

Although grief is a universal experience, we simply aren’t taught how to deal with. It is powerful, personal emotion which can make others feel uncomfortable about what to do or say. Instead of providing support, people often avoid individuals experiencing grief. Mourners therefore feel isolated and very alone in their suffering, even if they share the loss with others.

If this sounds like you or someone close to you, it is important to know that grieving is a very natural process. Everyone will experience it at one time or another and each person will do it differently. Some will grieve for a short time and other will grieve much longer. Some will cry and display their grief while others with hold it within. There is no right or wrong way as long as you let yourself experience it and ride though the pain.

Sometimes the significant loss we experience leaves an empty feeling within us and we crave to fill it. Initially drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or other addictive behaviours will fill the void and this is why so many people turn to addictive behaviours at the onset of grief. Unfortunately, these behaviours only mask the pain  and when the behaviour is removed, the grief will rise to the surface.

Avoiding these types of behaviours and grieving in a positive way will not only get you through the intense feelings at the onset, but also allow you to move on as time passes. The following tips will help you grieve in a more positive way:

  • Understand what you are feeling is completely natural. It is ok to be sad and still be able to laugh.
  • Take each day as it comes and remember that as each day passed; the pain will eventually ease.
  • Be kind to yourself and don’t eat yourself up over the past. Instead focus on the present and the future.
  • Talk to friends and family about your loss. Although they may not have experienced grief themselves, they can be your best support so don’t be afraid to ask them for help.
  • Look after your physical health; sleep, eat health, drink plenty of water and avoid excessive alcohol or sleeping medication. Looking after your physical health will ultimately help maintain your mental health.
  • Keeping busy is great but don’t do so to avoid your feelings.
  • Yoga, meditation, gardening, writing or things that you usually do to relax will help you stay mentally strong.
  • Avoid major decisions like moving or selling your home. As time passes you will have a better perspective.
  • If you are experiencing isolation, joining a support group will give you access to others experiencing similar emotions and the opportunity to share your experience.

If your grief is prolonged or if you are having trouble coping, you may need to talk to a professional. The following contacts are an excellent place to start:

Lifeline 24-hour counselling 13 11 14

Kids helpline 1800 55 1800

By Kim Chartres

June 24, 2014

How to deal with grief

In her first book, On Death and Dying, Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (MacMillan) says grief can be broken down into five stages:

 

  1. Denial

    This is usually characterized by a feeling of numbness, which then becomes denial as the bereaved person struggles to believe what has happened.

  2. Anger

    The bereaved person feels anger towards God, themselves, the person who died and other people.

  3. Bargaining

    When the bereaved person tries to make an agreement with God or similar to take the pain away.

  4. Depression

    This is when the bereaved feels helpless and the death hits home.

  5. Acceptance

    When the loss has been accepted and a new beginning is starting to take over.

Dos and Don’ts

Now take a look at the Dos and Don’ts when dealing with someone who is grieving.

Dos

  • Do accept that everyone is different and whatever that person is doing or feeling is okay.
  • Do say, “I don’t think I can begin to understand your loss. Is there anything I can do?
  • Do be patient and listen and be prepared to let the person talk about whatever they want to.
  • Do have the patience to go through photos after photos.
  • Do be particularly understanding around birthday, anniversaries and so on.
  • Do try to talk as normally and it doesn’t matter if they get upset.

Don’ts

 

  • Don’t’ say things like, “It was for the best, or I understand how you feel.
  • Don’t try one-upmanship. Everyone experiences different losses.
  • Don’t ever argue be accepting.
  • Don’t ever force someone to talk about it if they don’t want to.

 

June 2, 2000
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