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Let’s talk about grief and loss

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Loss is an unavoidable part of being human. Over the course of our lives, we’re bound to experience many losses – relationships ending, divorces, job losses, loss of good health, financial losses, graduations, moving, retirement, and often most painfully, the death of people you know or love. Even positive changes and moving on to new things can still involve the loss of old things – old habits, people, places, ways of seeing ourselves.

And yet, despite how frequent and universal the experience is, we – as individuals and as a society – often have a really hard time acknowledging, understanding, and supporting one another in dealing with the impacts of loss. We have a hard time talking about it.

So, let’s talk about it.

What is grief?
When you lose something or someone, it’s normal to experience grief. Grief is an experience and a process that affects what we think, what we do, and how we feel both physically and emotionally.

Grief can look different for different people. For example, if someone you love dies, you might feel overwhelming, unpredictable emotions – sadness, anger, shock, regret, relief – or you might feel kind of numb and flat or you might feel a bit sad but mostly okay. You might think about them all the time or you might find it hard to think about them. You might need time off work, want space from friends and family, and feel totally disengaged from your daily life and routine. Or, you might need to spend more time at work, want to be around friends and family more than usual, and stick even more closely to your usual routine. You might sleep more or less. You might eat more or less. You might notice more physical issues – headaches, nausea, muscle pain – or you might not. You might even experience some combination of all of these things at different times.

How long does grief last?
Losses can make the ground under your feet feel shaky and leave you feeling lost and confused. The things you used to know and be might feel like they don’t make sense anymore, and you might have to make a new kind of sense out of your life.

All of that takes time; grief takes time. How much time? It’s different for different people – it depends on things like your personality, the circumstances around your loss, your culture, your family values, and your relationship with who or what has been lost. It can last for weeks, months, and or even years. In some cases, a loss may always be felt in some way. However, while the timeframe might vary, the intensity of grief does eventually decrease.

For most people, it doesn’t happen in a linear way - where how you feel gets better in a consistent, predictable way. You might feel the worst right after a loss, or it might take time for a loss to hit you. Grief tends to come in waves, with moments where you feel better and moments where it’s like the loss just happened yesterday.

When is grief an issue?
Grief isn’t a problem that needs to be solved or an illness that needs to be cured.

Sometimes, though, your grieving process can be more complicated – for example, if your loss seems invisible to other people or if someone you had a complicated relationship with and mixed feelings about dies – and you can get stuck.

If your grief consistently interferes with your day-to-day functioning for a long time after the loss or doesn’t seem to decrease in intensity at all, for example, you might be getting stuck and need to reach out for more support.

The bottom line:
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, and grief doesn’t follow a predictable pattern – it takes as long as it takes to process.

So, if you’re grieving, give yourself permission to grieve however you need to. If someone you care about is grieving, let them grieve however they need to. And if you think you might be stuck, or need help coping with your grief, there are people that can help.

If you're struggling with grief and loss, MindBeacon is here to help with a variety of supports available in our Virtual Mental Health Therapy Clinic. If you are part of our Workplace Mental Health Program, please visit your company page for access to services covered by your workplace.

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Stronger Minds content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to establish a standard of care with a reader, you should always seek the advice of your mental health professional, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. If you think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call emergency services immediately. You should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained herein. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information herein should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.