There are things you can do to lessen your sorrow

Failing to understand how grief can strike you could put your health on the line.

When grief undermines your health

Most of us have felt grief at one time or another, whether it was over the death of a loved pet or the loss of a treasured relationship.

Now as we move on from our middle age, we are increasingly likely to experience a deeper mourning as our older family members and friends pass away.

While we have all heard that grief is experienced differently by individuals and that in time the emotional pain will pass, the truth is that when it hits us, it turns our world upside down.

Doctors believe grief can weaken the immune system, making people prone to infections such as colds or shingles.

The sadness may take many forms and, when left unmanaged, could lead to debilitating depression.

Learning how to cope with grief is a preparation we should all probably undertake, to protect ourselves from the darkest of thoughts when the unexpected happens.

According to WebMD, grief has five stages:

  • Denial: When you first learn of a loss, it’s normal to think, ‘This isn’t happening’.
  • Anger: As reality sets in, you’re faced with the pain of your loss. You may feel frustrated and helpless. These feelings later turn into anger.
  • Bargaining: During this stage, you dwell on what you could’ve done to prevent the loss and you may also try to strike a deal with a higher power.
  • Depression: Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues and a decreased appetite. You may feel overwhelmed, regretful and lonely.
  • Acceptance: In this final stage of grief, you accept the reality of your loss. Although you still feel sad, you’re able to start moving forward with your life.

In rare cases, some people struggle to lift themselves out of a melancholic state. It is important to talk to your doctor if time has not helped you cope with the grief and you are struggling to return to a normal routine or work.

An inability to stop blaming yourself, feelings of hopelessness or depressive thoughts are red flags that you need professional medical or counselling help. To avoid falling into this rut, crisis support organisation Lifeline suggests the following:

Let yourself grieve
Express your feelings to a trusted family member, friend or health professional, rather than bottling them up.

Take care of yourself
Eat healthily, exercise and develop good sleeping habits. Even if you don’t feel like it, do some of the things you used to enjoy.

Don’t self-medicate
Avoid alcohol and drugs, as they numb your feelings and make it harder to heal.

Take your time
Postpone major life decisions – it takes time to get back into life. There isn’t a set time limit on grief, so try not to put pressure on yourself or others to ‘move on’ or ‘get over it’.

Say goodbye
Each person has a different way of remembering the person or thing that has been lost. For some people, having belongings that remind them of the deceased can help. For others, putting these things away until they are better equipped to face them is easier.

Let people help
Explain to family and friends how you feel and what you would like them to do to help. Often, others want to help but they do not know what you need or want. Tell them. It can help to talk to a professional, or to talk to someone who has been through a similar experience, and can understand what you are going through.

Allow yourself to heal
You may feel guilty about ‘forgetting’ a person and not wanting to move on. This is a normal part of healing. Don’t feel guilty about moving through your grief and trying to get back to your life.

You’ve got this
You can survive a big loss even if you feel like you can’t. Take one step at a time. Know your limits and expect some setbacks. It may be hard but you can and will heal.

Prepare for memories
Anniversaries associated with your loved one or stressful or sad events such as funerals have the ability to trigger your original grief. Prepare for these events and your reactions to them.

Make it about you
Do things just for yourself – taking ‘time out’ to do the things that you used to enjoy is important. Even when you’re feeling down, try to connect regularly with family and friends.

Do you have any advice to share about coping with grief? Are you concerned that you may not know how to cope during mourning?

Disclaimer: Australian readers seeking support and information about suicide and depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information on treating depression, please visit Beyond Blue.


    Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    12th Sep 2018
    Been twelve years since my wife died of ovarian cancer. Every August my birthday month and her anniversary of losing the battle. I get crook, I get depressed, I get angry and I get very sad. Every August since she died is the same. I try to get over it but just can't seem to lift myself out of the down times. The "what ifs" come back to haunt me. I don't have any advice to offer! I always think I never did enough for her for those two and a half years of her illness. Family tell me I couldn't have done any more but I will never think that way. I'm over the grief but will never be over losing her to such an unforgiving disease. Even with my new partner/friend there beside me. I just cannot seem to shake the down time in August.
    12th Sep 2018
    clarkeyI am deeply sorry for your loss We all go through this feeling ow what we could have done for loved. Mine was my mother. You can honour her memory by speaking about ovarian cancer and raising awareness, I do wish you all the best for the future,
    12th Sep 2018
    mum died in March this year and the more time goes by the more I miss her the more alone I feel
    12th Sep 2018
    Raising awareness is so important. My brother is dying at Concord Hospital now. I am obviously very sad and keep crying on and off throughout the day. I"m having trouble sleeping & am eating less. I can't stop talking to my partner about the terrible pancreatic cancer that has reduced an apparently strong & healthy 75yearold to a weak patient who cannot even get out of his bed & sit on a chair or even use the toilet in his hospital room. We see awareness campaigns about several different cancers: bowel, lung,prostate, breast, brain, but pancreatic cancer is rarely mentioned.I enjoy reading about being healthy & love learning about how to try to prevent disease but I've been "caught out" by being unaware in the most cruel way. Had there been an awareness campaign about this silent killer I might have encouraged my brother to act earlier in seeking medical attention. His vague symptoms began with food tasting "different" and losing his appetite to some extent. I was even pleased to hear this as I thought it would help him lose a little weight & that would be a good thing.He waited too long. When he saw his GP he sent him for a blood test & simply told him he needn't worry. Had he sent him for a CT scan and other diagnoses, my brother might have undergone surgery which, I understand, might have prevented the cancer reaching his liver & other organs & given him years of life, if successful. Had he been aware he might have insisted on further tests...Now nothing can be done to save him--only palliative care. Chemo & other treatments can prolong the lives of people with other cancers...but pancreatic cancer responds only to surgery at the earliest time.
    12th Sep 2018
    It is now 14 years since my husband and mother-in-law passed away within a month of each other.The major grief has passed, but sometimes I feel the loss very much, even now. Strangely I feel it most around "couples", makes me feel very alone. Sometimes I feel resentment towards those who still have partners, but generally I am fine now.
    13th Sep 2018
    Relatives and friends that have always been there, suddenly no longer exist..Even when I am not sharing my daily life with them there's an empty space where they used to be, instead of a place where I can go.? Bugger, so glad that's all I have to get over.

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