Coping with grief, loss and change

Grief is the feeling people experience after they’ve suffered a loss. Everyone experiences grief and loss differently. Healing and moving on are different for each person.

Grief refers to the feelings that people experience when they have suffered a major loss. It’s how people respond to loss emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. The loss can be a death or a big change that separates you from a person or thing. You may not feel bad all of the time and you don’t have to force any feelings that don’t come naturally to you. Be patient with yourself and remember that you will get through this.

Different kinds of loss

Death is one of the ways that you can lose someone, but you can also experience grief over other major life changes.

Some of the ways that you can experience loss are:

  • •    breaking up
  • •    moving away
  • •    divorce of family members
  • •    fighting with friends 
  • •    losing your spirituality or dreams that are really important to you
  • •    life-changing or life-threatening illness
  • •    developing a disability

Grieving a death

Losing someone you love is an incredibly emotional experience. Your body, mind and soul need to adjust to the reality of the loss. Your body, mind and soul are starting to acknowledge the reality of what happened.

Emotional reactions

You may experience a lot of different emotions including:

1. Relief
Relief is a normal response to death, especially if someone was really sick for a long time. Relief can come from knowing that the person isn’t suffering anymore.

2. Guilt
You may feel guilty about not telling the person who died how much you cared about them or worry about other things that were left unsaid. Sometimes you may feel guilty for being alive or think that there was something you could have done to prevent the death, even though this isn’t true.

3. Anger
It’s OK to feel angry when someone dies. It’s also OK to let it out. Holding your anger in can be bad for you. Here are some healthy ways to express anger:

  • •    play sports
  • •    write in a journal
  • •    listen to loud music

Anger is natural, but if you think you’re having trouble dealing with your anger, try reaching out to a safe adult. Contact Kids Help Phone if you need to talk.

4. Confusion
It’s normal to feel confused about your emotions after experiencing a loss. You’re probably feeling a lot of things that you don’t recognize, especially if you’ve never experienced a loss like this before. 

Physical reactions

You may experience physical sensations while grieving, like:

  • •    nausea or feeling sick to your stomach
  • •    a tight feeling in your chest
  • •    crying a lot
  • •    a choking sensation or feeling like you can’t breathe
  • •    headaches
  • •    exhaustion (like all you want to do is sleep)
  • •    feeling tense and unable to relax

Mental reactions

You may find yourself feeling:

  • •    forgetful
  • •    disorganized
  • •    distracted
  • •    worried about death and the safety of others

Spiritual reactions

After a loss, you may question your spirituality by:

  • •    feeling like your faith isn’t enough
  • •    blaming a higher power for allowing this to happen
  • •    thinking your life doesn’t have meaning anymore

Don’t judge yourself

All of your feelings are valid and can change from day to day. People deal with grief in different ways. Some people cry a lot while others feel too numb to cry. No one has to know what you’re feeling unless you want to share. 

Some cultures have certain expectations about how grief should be expressed. In some cultures, men may feel that they aren’t allowed to cry. Movies, books and songs all tell us how we should feel when someone dies, so it’s natural to think your grief should look a certain way. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself.

Self-medicating

When you’re suffering, you may feel like doing anything you can to feel better, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This can leave you vulnerable to unhealthy ways of coping, like using drugs and alcohol or overeating. Try to remember that this won’t make your problems go away. In fact, it may make them even worse. Take care of yourself.

If you would like to know more about this topic, feel free to speak or chat with a counsellor.