Grief and loss

You may feel grief after losing someone or something important to you. Grief is a natural response to loss, and everyone processes grief in different ways. There is no right way to grieve, and everyone will react differently based on their cultural and spiritual beliefs.

You may experience grief for:

  • People -because of death or moving away
  • Relationships - after a breakup, divorce, or major negative event
  • Location - after changing schools or moving to a new house, city, or country
  • Losing a sense of place - being made reduntant
  • Pets - after death or in sickness
  • Health - seeing an inevitable decline in health or a terminal sickness
  • Things you own - if lost by mistake or theft
  • Loss of identity - big life changes such as getting married, miscarriage, retiring
  • Loss of independence - giving up your licence, moving into residential care, needing extra support

You may also not experience grief with any of these events, which is normal as well.

It is important to remember that no one experiences grief in the same way. Some common feelings experienced with grief include:

  • Shock/disbelief
  • Sadness/crying
  • Anger/blame
  • Guilt
  • Relief
  • Resentment
  • Fear/anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Yearning
  • Out of control/overwhelmed
  • Physical - feeling unwell, stomach pains, headaches, sickness
  • Thoughts - not being able to make sense of anything, seeking explanation, rationalising
  • Changes to eating or sleeping

If you do not experience any of these feelings, your grieving is still valid and normal. Everyone will process grief in the way that is right for them as an individual.

Sometimes grief feels like it will stay with you forever, but after time and processing, it will become easier. The sense of loss for the thing or person that was important to you may not disappear, but it will become easier to manage over time.

Coping with grief

Taking care of yourself during a time of grieving is important to make sure you process your feelings in a positive way. While everyone deals with grief in different ways, some advice will make sure that you take care of yourself during the process.

Stay connected

Reaching out to friends and whānau for support while you are grieving can help you process what you are feeling. Talking to people you trust may help you to understand how you are feeling. If they are also experiencing grief for the same person or thing it can be a good opportunity to support each other.

Talk to someone

If you are struggling to process your grief alone, you may want to talk to someone else about how you are feeling. Some people find talking to a counsellor, helpline, cultural or religious leader helpful in understanding and processing grief by finding guidance in others.

Routine

Grief can be overwhelming and make it hard to carry on with normal activities. Try to keep up your normal schedule with mealtimes, bedtimes, and frequent activities or commitments to help you return to a normal routine, even if you do not feel like doing it.

Coping mechanisms

Avoid turning to negative coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs, or overeating to manage feelings of grief. These may numb the pain at the time but can lead to unhealthy habits if continued. These can be replaced with more helpful coping or distraction techniques such as visiting a friend, getting exercise, or reading a book.

A proper farewell

If you are struggling to let go of the person or thing that you have lost, you may find comfort in properly farewelling them/it. Finding closure through holding/attending a funeral, writing a letter, talking out loud to them/it, or lighting a candle may bring you some relief. Finding a way to feel connected to the person or thing in its absence can help you process feelings of grief.

Express your grief

It is important to express your grief rather than holding it in. You may express grief however feels right for you. This could mean being creative, such as through drawing or writing, or through reminiscing and reflecting on memories. You may also find comfort in reflecting on your relationship with the person or thing that has been lost, and thinking about your own personal growth during that time and in the future.

Take time

There is no timeframe for the grieving process. It is important to take the time you need to process your grief in a way that works for you. Being kind to yourself throughout this time and giving yourself permission to grieve is an important part of the process.

Know when to seek help

If you are struggling to process grief, or if you think your grief may be leading to depression, you should seek help from your doctor or a depression helpline. For more information on depression, you can view our page here.  

If you need to call a helpline, a list of national and local helplines can be found at Let’s End Loneliness.

Websites of interest

Find your nearest Age Concern