A couple of weeks ago, I tragically and unexpectedly lost my Nan. Healthy and as strong as an ox, she suffered multiple cardiac arrests in a short space of time and sadly passed on a couple of days later.
I wanted to use my blog this month to reflect on grief and loss. The deep reflection of love and the all-encompassing journey that we all navigate differently, in our own way.
We are never ready to lose our loved ones and even though it is something we will all face at some point in our lives, there is absolutely no way to prepare for it. It is truly one of the most intense challenges any of us could ever face.
Stress and trauma often accompany grief and it can be an overwhelming experience that causes intense emotional shifts as well as strain on our mental and physical health.
As our nervous system responds to stress, our bodies and minds are thrust into a whirlwind of upheaval. Triggered by a cortisol and adrenaline release that instantly disrupts our sleep patterns and appetite, we can feel wired, exhausted and drained.
The Five Stages of Grief
There are 5 stages of grief. They don’t necessarily occur in order, and it is normal to cycle through and repeat stages with different levels of intensity as we attempt to adapt to our new reality during bereavement. There is no predictable pattern or timeline and the stages of grief are more like experiences that many people have been through and shouldn’t dictate how you should or shouldn’t grieve.
Shock and denial are the first stages of grief. Even if you have had time to prepare for a loss, feelings of numbness and detachment are a normal response. As your body and your mind start to process reality, it is also normal to feel as if you have a kind of mental fog.
The inability to make any decisions, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, insomnia, racing thoughts and an overall lack of motivation is totally normal.
There is no roadmap for anger during grief. It can be present silently or with rage at full tilt. It can swing on a pendulum between silence and volubility and might not make sense to us or those around us.
Anger is directed at the person who left us behind, religion, family, or disease. Rage blame is a natural and normal response during grief.
When we are feeling intense feelings of pain and loss, it is hard to believe that there is nothing we can do to change the situation. Bargaining is when we start to make promises or deals with ourselves or the universe in an attempt to alter a new reality. Feeling helpless and frustrated, it is normal to feel consumed with racing thoughts and scenarios of “what if?”
Feeling low and depressed is part of the grieving process when we experience a loss. Feeling numb, empty and sad, hopeless, tired and low energy are just some of the experiences that we may go through.
Wanting to sleep all the time and withdrawing from people instead of asking for or accepting help are normal reactions to loss.
These symptoms are not necessarily signs of a mental health disorder and may reduce in intensity over time. It is important to ask for and accept the help that is offered. You will not be a burden on others and you are definitely not alone in how you feel.
Grief isn’t a singular event, it is an all-consuming, ongoing process that will range in intensity over time. This is all normal, as is the experience of acceptance. Gradually you will come to understand and accept what has happened and learning to live again. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and there is no timeframe for the healing process.
One of the best things you can do is reach out. Get professional help and support while being patient with yourself.
Grief Support Resources
It is okay to ask for help. You don’t have to navigate grief, pain and loss on your own, you are not alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out as soon as possible.
Grief counsellors are highly trained and counselling services are completely confidential and many of them are free.
Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement – Statewide specialist bereavement service for individuals, children and families. Fees are waived Australia-wide for clients seeking bereavement support resulting from COVID-19-related deaths.
The National Relay Service (NRS) is available to help callers with a hearing or speech impairment.
The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is available (24 hours, 7 days) for callers who speak other languages. Call 131 450.
Griefline – Griefline supports anyone experiencing grief, facing any type of loss, providing access to free telephone and online support services and resources. The helpline operates 7 days a week from 6 am to midnight AEST.
Bare.com – Nationwide bereavement and support services directory across Australia.
My Grief Assist – Practical, contemporary information in the form of easy-to-read factsheets, book lists, videos and links to grief-related support services.