“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim”
Loss is an unavoidable part of life and grief is the natural response to loss and part of the healing process. Grief is the emotional suffering we feel when someone or something significant is taken away from us. Whatever type of loss you’ve suffered - there is no right or wrong way to grief and each individual’s experience is unique.
What is grief?
Grief is a universal experience and accompanying emotions are often overwhelming and can be difficult and unexpected, from shock and anger to guilt, profound sadness and even disbelief. Grief can also severely impact your physical health such as difficulty to sleep, eat or even structured thinking. Although not an exhaustive list all of the above are normal reactions to loss. Remember: The more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be. In Isaiah 41:10 however, God says: “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand” So in those moments when you are afraid and lost and don’t have the strength to get through the day, remember this promise of God.
Grief is often associated with the loss of a loved one as this is one of the most intense types of grief. Grief can however also come from perceived or real change in our lives. For example, moving to a new city, school, or job and even transitioning into a new age group. The loss of a friendship, loss of a pet and even letting go of a long-held dream are also things that can cause us to grieve.
General symptoms of grief
* Feel like you are "going crazy"
* Having difficulty concentrating
* Feeling sad or depressed
* Being irritable or angry
* Feeling frustrated or misunderstood
* Experience anxiety, nervousness, or fearfulness
* Feel like you want to "escape"
* Experience guilt or regret
* Being uncertain
* Feeling numb
* Lack energy and motivation
Coping with grief and loss
Each one of us has an individual style of coping with painful experiences but taking care of yourself and acknowledging your feelings during these times is a good start in helping you cope. If you are experiencing grief or loss, you may always carry some sadness but the painful, intense feelings should gradually subside and it should eventually become easier to deal with life. Remembering God’s faithfulness in past problems will also help to build your faith for present challenges you are facing.
Healthy ways to cope with grief are:
Be patient with yourself – grief is a process unique to each individual.
Allow yourself to grieve - Exploring and expressing your emotions can be a part of the process. Do not disregard or ignore your feelings of grief. Listening to music or writing can help.
Talk to family and/or friends – family or friends who have dealt with loss in the past can help you find new ways of coping.
Engage in social activities although you might not feel ready for it. It’s important to stay connected and spend time with supportive people.
Create positive memories - If you lost someone close to you, honor the life of the person who has died. Collect photos, write a journal or share stories and rituals with others. These can all help to create meaning after your loss.
Take time to relax – do something that you love like reading or listening to music. Be good to yourself.
Eat healthy food and get some exercise – looking after your health will be valuable during your journey to healing.
Join a support group – you might find comfort from people who experienced the same loss as you.
Seek counseling – especially when experiencing persistent feelings of sadness and despair, which are getting in the way of your everyday life.
Grief as part of the healing process
The process of grieving is not linear but is more often experienced in cycles. Grief is sometimes compared to climbing a spiral staircase where things can look and feel like you are just going in circles, yet you are actually making progress. The length of the grief process is also different for everyone. There is no predictable schedule for grief and the grief process should never be rushed. Remember to be patient with yourself. With time and support, things generally do get better. Some people even find new wisdom and strength after experiences of loss.
Grieving with God
Grieving is Biblical and temporary. In 2 Corinthians 4:17 Paul writes the following - “For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” Paul’s affliction wasn’t light because it was less than ours, but because he put it into a different perspective. He said his afflictions were light because they were “but for a moment”. After a million years in the presence of the Lord, all the
hardships of his life would seem like nothing. That’s true for all of us.
When to seek professional help
If you feel you’re having a particularly difficult time grieving, know that this is natural and common. If it’s getting in the way of you completing important tasks or taking care of yourself and others, you may want to consider reaching out for professional help. Unresolved grief may lead to complicated grief or depression and discussing how you feel with a trained professional could help you move forward on your path to healing.
Erich Schoeman and Monique Steenkamp share their thoughts on certain matters of the soul.