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Coping with grief: Understanding more about loss can help

GRIEF: Grief is our response to loss. It is the normal, natural and inevitable response to loss.
GRIEF: Grief is our response to loss. It is the normal, natural and inevitable response to loss. AntonioGuillem

GRIEF can take many forms and can happen after any kind of loss. It can be avoided, postponed, thrived upon or even denied.

But to survive it takes time. Gaining a better understanding of your grief and what you can do to cope and then survive, can help make the passage through loss a lot easier.

Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement's specialist bereavement counsellor and clinical supervisor Susan Meyerink talked to Seniors News about three key forms of grief - disenfranchised, anticipatory and complicated.

Disenfranchised

This occurs when the grieving person feels unsupported by family or friends, their workplace, community or society. It's often grief that's not acknowledged.

"It leaves people feeling alone, isolated and unsupported, and they are unable to share that experience," Ms Meyerink said. "Being able to share our grief is a very big part of healing."

It occurs not just with death, but also with many other experiences such as retirement from work or downsizing and moving into a retirement village.

Acknowledging the loss is the first recovery step. Self-care is also important.

"Seeking support is always good whether you use a support group, counselling, online or phone line help," Ms Meyerink said. "People also need to give themselves time and space to grieve, particularly with disenfranchised grief because the rest of the community is saying 'it's been two years and you should be over it'."

Anticipatory

This grief happens before a loss. The symptoms are very similar to regular grief; people will experience sadness, anger or isolation, have memory issues and depression.

The intensity and the duration of this loss is often no different yo other losses.

"Grief over a death, even though you have anticipated it, it can be totally different," Ms Meyerink said. "Anticipatory grief is normal."

Accepting the normality of this grief is important because you know it is going to happen. Feeling relief is also normal.

"For self-care, people might want to do journaling, photographing, exploring mindfulness or breathing exercises, and talking with others such as care-giver support groups," she added.

"If you are able to connect with others who have had a shared experience, it's quite powerful because you begin to realise you are not on your own."

Complicated

"I call it grief that doesn't heal," Ms Meyerink said

"Most people will experience a period of intense sorrow and mourning, they might feel numb or be feeling guilty or angry. What happens with normal grief, usually within the first six to 12 months, is that those feelings start to ease. People start to accept their loss."

With complicated grief, these symptoms remain. Some of the signs are intense pain and sorrow, and continually ruminating over the loss.

"Generally, they can't focus on anything but the loss; it takes up almost every waking minute," she added. "

They focus on all the reminders or they go the other way, and totally avoid it because it is all too painful. They have a pining, almost longing for the deceased. They have real problems accepting the death."

This type of grief needs professional help. It has a lot of risk factors as it affects people physically, mentally and socially.

"When we determine it's complicated grief and I explain it to them, they say 'well, I'm not crazy. I know now why I have been feeling so bad for so long'," Ms Meyerink said.

Getting help

  • Lifeline on 131 114.
  • Grief Line (open 12pm to 3am, seven days) on 1300 845 745.
  • Talk to your GP about.
  • Meet with a certified bereavement counsellor.
  • Contact the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement on www.grief.org.au.

Topics:  australian centre for grief and bereavement grief health health advice wellbeing


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