Change and the accompanying experience of loss is part of everyday life. We will all experience change, from work variations, retirement and illness, to the more serious upheavals such as separation and death.
These changes can come with grief and a feeling of sadness and often have a major effect on our personal welfare.
The way in which we manage loss is very important, as it can greatly affect our relationships and well-being. We may initially feel like we can cope on our own, but once life begins to slow down and return to 'normal', feelings of grief can catch up with us.
Relationships Australia WA counsellor Fiona Bennett says that grief is a very individual experience and will be related to the way in which the loss affects us.
“It is typical for people to feel overwhelmed at the initial loss and individuals shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek out help, either from family, friends or a counsellor.”
“The range of emotions that people go through following a loss can include shock, helplessness, anxiety and anger. These are all natural reactions which are important to process so that we understand what the loss means to us and how we want to take care of ourselves through the change.”
Relationships Australia WA run workshops and counselling sessions aimed at helping individuals to recognise inevitable losses and develop the skills to minimise any impact it might have on their lives
How can I deal with my grief?
Name the loss we have experienced:
- Give it a voice. In the naming, we retain power over the experience, not a victim to it. This helps us to move from a state of denial.
- Find others who respect our experience, who themselves are not in denial about the experience.
- Reach out to people who support you. This may include joining a specific group.
Give yourself permission to grieve:
- Give voice to the range of feelings you are experiencing.
- Share with someone you trust will understand.
- Express your experience through journaling, art work, writing letters to the deceased person.
- Accept any anger around loss, and find ways to resolve this which don’t harm you or anyone else. Avoid blaming, accusing, taking retributive action.
- Seek professional counselling support if you are feeling alone and overwhelmed by your experience, or feeling stuck in it.
Re-construct our life:
- Exercise regularly, maintain healthy sleep habits, and eat a healthy diet.
- Use alcohol and any other substances in moderation.
- Take time to do the activities which you have always enjoyed, even if at the moment, the experience seems empty.
- When you feel ready, create new structures and routines.
- Give yourself permission to do things where you don’t feel and think about your loss. It is okay to have some respite from the painful thoughts and feelings.
- Remember to tune in and see what you need through your journey of grieving. There is no right or wrong way to feel, our feelings just are what they are.
How can I help a friend or co-worker who is grieving the loss of a loved one?
- Offer condolences.
- Ask about their loss.
- Ask about the deceased person.
- Listen and validate their feelings and needs.
- Empathise with their experience by imagining how you might feel in their shoes.
- Reassure them that their grief reactions are normal.
- Tell them of the bereavement leave they can use, and of any other supports your business/organisation can provide. Reassure them that work comes second.
- Ask them how they want you to keep in contact with them. Ask them how much information they would like their co-workers to know. Ask if they wish to be contacted by colleagues. Be aware that people have different ways of dealing with loss – it is important to be supportive of how this person needs to deal with it.
- Identify with them their strengths and resources.
- Reassure them of their worth.
- Offer them external counselling support.