What does grief feel like?
Grief is an extremely difficult thing to describe; but most of us will experience it at some point in our lives. Although it is something universally experienced, it is almost impossible to describe how it ‘feels’ to grieve. Grieving is a very individual and personal process; no two people are going to necessarily feel the same thing. But there are a few things you may experience if you are dealing with a loss in your life.
Although this might seem obvious, the sadness that comes with losing someone can be overwhelming. In fact, many people experience depression when they are grieving. This can occur when someone finally ‘realises’ the loss – by which we mean, they have finally realised that the person they have lost is no longer around anymore. This can lead to isolation, resulting in spending a lot of time thinking about the past and the lost loved one. Although reflection can be a good thing, it is important to realise when someone is obsessing over the past and needs a little bit of help with their current state.
As humans, our minds are designed to protect us from anything that might cause us pain. Therefore, after a significant loss, we may feel a bit numb. This is possibly our body going into a form of shock – as a way for us to try to avoid getting overwhelmed by what is going on around us. Although this shock can occur any time in a grief journey, it is usually experienced after the initial loss, and can last a substantial amount of time.
What some of you may have seen in the ‘five stages of grief’ is denial. This is typically what people feel right at the beginning of their grief journey, as a way to reduce the pain of loss. When we lose a loved one, our reality changes in an instant – we experience incomprehensible pain and don’t really know what to do with it. For this reason, we might go into denial. Although this is very common, it can delay our grief, because if we haven’t fully accepted someone has gone, how could we possibly begin to grieve for them? Denial is perfectly normal but it can feel extremely unsettling; especially if someone thinks they have come to terms with a death of a loved one.
Similar to denial, sometimes people can feel disbelief toward a death. Despite, as we have mentioned, death being something we will all experience, we do all still struggle to come to terms with the fact someone is gone; it is unbelievable to us that they could be there one minute and gone the next. Disbelief is another confusing emotion that quite often goes unnoticed, but it is there none the less.
The main thing to know, when experiencing grief, is that all emotions are valid. No two people are going to grieve in the same way and some people might feel emotions more intently than others. The main thing to know is that support is there if you need it. The NHS mental health directory is full of helplines, websites and information, if you think you, or someone you know, might need support.
By Rebecca Thomas