Dealing with grief can be a challenging process. If you have ever lost someone close to you, you’ll know this from experience.
For friends and family members of hospice patients, grief is a part of life, one you will become acquainted with at some point, if not already. Grief can be an ongoing process even before you experience loss, especially if your loved one is terminally ill.
You may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of dealing with loss but let us demystify the grieving process. In the article below, we’ve outlined the features of grief, how long grief can last, as well as some tools to help you cope with the loss of a loved one.
Find Your Support System
One of the most important ways you can cope with grief is to locate and bolster your support system. As you experience grief, you may discover your behavior is changing.
Your friends may not know what to say to you or how to handle your emotions. They may make unhelpful suggestions to you about how to deal with your feelings of grief. In an effort to make everyone more comfortable, you may be tempted to hide your grief away. Try to remember, not everyone can help you cope, and that’s okay!
Keep in mind, your loved one’s hospice provider likely has resources available for you. Your support system can include a counselor or a spiritual advisor from the hospice organization. You don’t need to rely solely on friends or other family members, who might also be in the grieving process. Because this process is different for everyone, the involvement of a therapist or counselor might be helpful for you.
Recognize the Features of Grief
Grief looks different for everyone, but medical and mental health professionals have identified some key features of grieving. Recognizing what these are might help you notice them in your own coping journey.
Physical Features of Grief
You probably won’t be surprised to learn grief can have a physical effect. You may experience insomnia and fatigue as well as loss of appetite. You may lack energy for basic activities such as cleaning your house or socializing. Because of your lack of appetite, you may experience weight loss.
Your immune system might be compromised as well. This can happen because grief causes a stress response in the body, which can result in increased susceptibility to illness. Additionally, you might experience high blood pressure because of this stress response.
Emotional Features of Grief
As discussed above, grief can affect your moods and emotions. The emotion people typically relate to grief is sadness, but you may also experience anger or depression.
You may have periods of time when you feel a deep need to express these emotions, and it’s important to make room for them, rather than try to paper over them with positivity or numbness. Your support system will be essential to help you find ways to process and handle these volatile emotions in a healthy way.
Social Features of Grief
Grief can affect the way you relate to other people socially. You might find yourself blurting out things in conversation you would normally keep to yourself or taking offense to something you would normally disregard. Grief can cause you to distance yourself from people you might otherwise seek out for company.
In her essay published in The Globe and Mail, Suzanne Westover describes grief as her unwanted roommate, who is feared and disliked by others. She discusses how her grief made her company unpalatable, so she learned to hide it away. You may find her experience relatable in terms of how her emotional experiences with grief affected her relationships with friends and family.
Does Grief Ever Go Away?
The grieving process can be a complex journey. You might wonder how long it will be until you feel “normal” again. Some, like Suzanne Westover, don’t believe grief ever really goes away but rather, you learn to live with it.
According to Westover, you learn to cope with grief one day at a time. You’ll be able to understand and accommodate your grief and treat yourself gently when you experience it. She states that her grief has made her face her emotions and come to terms with why she feels the way she does.
Perhaps you will agree with her perspective, or you may find yourself coming to a different conclusion. With the help of your support system, you’ll be able to cope with the grieving process and eventually feel balanced again.
Let Kindful Hospice Help You Cope with Grief
If you need additional support in dealing with the loss of a loved one, please reach out to us at Kindful Hospice. We have resources to help you cope with grief and find your support system in this difficult time. Our chaplains and counselors can assist you in making peace with the grieving process.