How grief can impact mental health
Grief is a difficult and complicated emotional state. Everyone deals with it differently, but it can have a serious impact on how we feel in our day-to-day lives. If you’re dealing with grief, hopefully this blog can help in some small way, even if it’s just to reassure you that what you’re feeling is normal.
If you need someone to talk to, remember that we’re here for you. Our Safe Space service can help if you need mental health support.
What is grief
Grief is the experience of losing someone important to us. It is characterised by pain and sadness, which we often feel to varying degrees as we adjust to the loss over time.
Losing someone important to us can be emotionally devastating – whether that be a partner, family member, friend, or pet.
Part of why dealing with grief can be difficult is because everyone experiences it differently. As you read on, remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel. You may be feeling one thing one day, and something completely different the next.
How grief can impact mental health
Shock or numbness
Often the first reaction to loss, a strong feeling of numbness can last for days, or even weeks.
You might mistake feeling numb for not feeling anything at all, and feel guilty at what you perceive to be a lack of grief over someone you loved. But the numbness is actually a psychological defence mechanism our bodies use when emotions are so intense or painful they threaten to overwhelm us entirely. The numbness is your mind trying to protect you.
If you’re going through loss and don’t feel much of anything, don’t beat yourself up. The numbness doesn’t invalidate the love you felt, and it will pass.
One of the most common elements of dealing with grief is a strong feeling of sadness. It might be persistent over days or weeks, or it might only appear at certain moments, or it might appear out of nowhere.
It can feel unbearable, but it will lessen over time.
Guilt is a common feeling when experiencing grief. We can feel guilt for any number of reasons, but it’s important to remember that often this is our way of finding someone to blame, to impose some kind of order or sense on something that usually feels senseless.
It’s normal to feel angry when someone dies. Death can seem cruel and unfair. You might feel angry at the person who is gone, angry at others, or even angry at yourself.
While there isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve, anger can be a difficult emotion to sit with for a long time, leaving you tired, aggressive, or destructive. Once you’ve felt anger, and expressed it safely and healthily, try to let it go.
Physical symptoms of grief
Dealing with intense emotions can be extremely tiring. If you’re dealing with loss, you might find yourself exhausted early in the day, or unable to get out of bed.
Lack of appetite
If you’re experiencing strong emotions of grief, you might find your appetite is disrupted. Try to eat something at your normal meal times, even if you aren’t hungry.
Grief and suicide
Suicide can bring up incredibly difficult and complicated feelings.
Feelings you might experience when you lose someone to suicide include intense sadness, shock, anger, confusion, or isolation. Some people also talk about experiencing a sense of shame or guilt, and while this is a very common, it is important to remember the reasons for suicide are complex, and you are not to blame.
You can learn more about suicide and grief here. You can find suicide bereavement support at Brent, Wandsworth, and Westminster Mind.
How long does grief last?
Grief can last for different lengths of time depending on the relationship you had with the person. For some people, grief can last years, but that doesn’t mean they struggle and suffer the entire time.
Grief can shift and change over time, as we change and deal with our emotions.
Although it is difficult, and painful, grief is natural, and we can’t fight or hide from feelings that are that powerful for very long. There are ways to process and deal with grief in a healthy way, and while they don’t necessarily make us feel the pain any less, they can help us deal with it in the long run.
Ways to process grief
Talk to someone
As with almost any mental health issue, sometimes the best thing you can do is to just talk about the grief you’re feeling with someone you trust.
Many people close to you will likely be feeling the same as you, so it can be really helpful to speak to them and share how you’re feeling. It might help them as well.
It may not change anything, but talking about how you feel is a healthy way to process and release those feelings, especially if you’ve been feeling lonely or isolated.
Take care of your body
Our minds and bodies are intricately connected. If our mental health is declining, sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to take care of our bodies.
This can be anything from getting some exercise to eating healthily, to taking a warm bath at the end of the day.
This can help alleviate physical symptoms of grief, making it easier to deal with the mental aspects.
Allow yourself to focus on other things
As you start to gain some distance from the initial shock, and are able to put things in perspective, it can be helpful to have other things to set your mind to.
Simple tasks that need to be done, or hobbies that you enjoy, can help distract you from difficult feelings, but can also remind us that there are other things still out in the world for us to do, other emotions we can feel besides pain.
As your feelings of grief lessen, you might catch yourself feeling guilty. It’s important to remember that moving on does not mean that you have stopped caring. We cannot exist in a permanent state of mourning, nor would our loved ones want us to.
But if you’ve been struggling with grief for a long time, bereavement counselling might be of help.
When dealing with grief, a professional counsellor can help you process difficult feelings you might not want to share with anyone else.
They can help you understand complex and painful emotions, which we can struggle to make sense of by ourselves.
You can find local grief counsellors on our mental health directory.
If you need mental health advice, support, or just someone to talk, our Safe Space service might be of help to you, or learn five things you can try that might improve your mental health.
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Posted on: 29th August 2023