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How to overcome grief’s health damaging effects
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  • Posted by: cbtkeadmin

How to overcome grief’s health damaging effects

At some point we have all experienced loss and grief be it from the loss of a loved one, a friend, a relationship and it is a normal part of life that we all deal with at some point. Grief looks like many things to many different people. Some of the causes of grief could include loss of a job, a material possession of sentimental value, loss of a pet as well as many other things.

This however does not go to diminish the fact that grief is overwhelming and tragic it’s an unfortunate occurrence that we are forced to deal with and overcome. Losing a pet and losing a loved one cannot be compared because we are all different people who feel differently about different things this is why it is important not to invalidate anyone else’s experience. Signs that someone you love or yourself may be going through grief include the following; shock, guilt, fear, depressed mood, anger, nausea, aching of joints, insomnia weight loss or gain etc.

Different types o grief

  1. Complicated grief- this is when the loss of a loved one has upon stuck in a state of bereavement. You’re unable to move forward, unable to accept that your loved one has departed. This grief has you in a constant state of longing for this this person and could lead to feelings of unworthiness. That without this person life is no longer worth living.
  2. Anticipatory grief- this is grief where by the grieving process started before your loved one departed. This often happens in cases where a loved one has been unwell for years or months and the situation has gradually worsened such that you accept it’s going to happen before it actually does.
  3. Disenfranchised grief- this is grief when the loss is devalued or seen as “not as big of a loss” . This happens when it’s stigmatized by society or by those are around you making you feel like you have to grieve in silence and alone. Examples could be loss of a friendship, a pet , a job, a house and many more.

Process of grief

The process of grief which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are often talked about as if they happen in order, moving from one stage to the other. We might hear people say things like ‘Oh I’ve moved on from denial and now I think I’m entering the angry stage’. But this isn’t often the case in fact these stages are non-linear which means people can experience these aspects of grief at different times and they do not happen in one particular order. We might not experience all of the stages, and we might find feelings are quite different with different distress.

The stages of grief

  1. Denial. These stage involves feelings of numbness in the early days after a loss. Some people at first carry on as if nothing has happened. Even if we know with our heads that someone has died it can be hard to believe that someone important is not coming back. It’s also very common to feel the presence of someone who has died, hear their voice or even see them.
  2. Anger. Anger is a completely natural emotion and is very natural after someone dies. Death can seem cruel and unfair, especially when we feel like someone has died before their time or you had plans for the future together. It’s also common to feel angry towards the person who has died, or angry at ourselves for things we did or didn’t do before their death.
  3. Bargaining. When we are in pain, it’s sometimes hard to accept that there’s nothing we can do to change things. Bargaining is when we start to make deals with ourselves, or perhaps with God if we are religious. We want to believe that if we act in particular ways we will feel better. It is also common to find ourselves going over and over things that happened in the past and asking a lot of ‘what if’ questions, wishing we could go back and change things in the hope things could have turned out differently.
  4. Depression. Sadness and longing are what we think of most often when we think about grief. This pain can be very intense and come in waves over many months or years. Life can feel like it no longer holds any meaning which can be very scary.
  5. Acceptance. Grief comes in waves and it can feel like nothing will ever be right again. But gradually most of us find that the pain eases, and it is possible to accept what has happened. We may never ‘get over’ the death of someone precious, but we can learn to live again, while keeping the memories of those we have lost close to us.

Coping strategies of grief

  1. Talk about them with new people, who never got to know your loved one .There will frequently be new and important people in your life who did not know your loved one. They may be new friends, a significant other, children, who never had the opportunity to meet your loved one when they were alive. It’s important for one to ways to tell these people about your loved one through sharing stories or photos.  This is a way that your loved one’s legacy continues and you continue to keep them in your life as you move forward.
  2. Keep photos of the person around. Keeping photos around keeps us connected with our loved one and often helps us remember the ways that person continues to influence our lives.
  3. Talk to them. Talking to a dead loved one is really okay and does not mean that one is crazy. It also brings a lot of comfort during the moments when one misses them most. Thus it is okay to talk away be it out loud or in your head and it is a common way of continuing a relationship with your loved one.
  4. Writing letters to the person you lost. This can be done in a journal, on the computer or even in actual letters. One can do it weekly, monthly, annually depending on whatever works for them. One can also choose to keep the letters or get rid of them. No matter where one writes them or chooses to do with them, these letters keep them connected with their loved one in the present.
  5. Imagine what advice they would give you when making tough decisions. Big decisions are often overwhelming and when one has lost the person who you would have talked it over with it can be especially hard.  Imagining a conversation with them, what they would have said, and the advice they might have given can help us feel connected and also help make big life choices a little easier.
  6. Live your life in a way you know they would be proud of. Even if it was a spouse, a parent, grandparent, child or friend, one often struggles knowing their loved one won’t be there to see their accomplishments and milestones. But taking time to recognize that their loved one would be proud of them for a specific accomplishment can be comforting and remind them of how they continue to be connected to their loved one.
  7. Plan for the anniversary. Despite it feeling like everyone else has moved on, one should not feel embarrassed or self-conscious about planning something in memory of their loved on each year on the anniversary of their death, or another special day.  Be it a small, personal ritual or a large event, it is important for one to find something that works for them.
  8. Enjoy comfort foods. Comfort foods are foods that remind one of their loved one.  Making a recipe that one’s loved one always made or eating one of their loved one’s favorite foods can bring back great memories and continue to connect them to their loved ones in everyday activities, like cooking and eating.
  9. Keep something that belonged to your loved one. You cannot keep everything but keeping a few meaningful items can be extremely powerful.  This can be an item that your loved one owned or an item you gave them. These items bring a lot of comfort since they make you feel close to your loved one.
  10. Adopting a hobby that they enjoyed. This one pushes one out of their comfort zone since if their loved to knit they will also learn to knit.  If they loved to garden they will learn to garden.  It may not end up being the right fit for them but either way people often feel close to their loved one in the process.
  11. Take a trip they always wanted to take. It may feel depressing but death can make one realize that life is short thus one may feel inspired to travel and this can help them travel in a way that is meaningful in their grief. On trips like this, one may feel close to their loved one, imagining how they would have felt about the trip.  It can be tough, certainly bittersweet, but for some people comforting.

Finding help

Getting professional help does not mean you are weak or broken. It’s choosing to get better and take care of yourself. CBT-Kenya (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Kenya) counseling center offers counseling and therapy sessions for persons from all walks of life. We focus on helping clients gain insight into themselves by going through a healing process. Our purpose is to help you to achieve your therapeutic and life goals, to improve the quality of your life and to help you to build strong relationships in your life. Get in touch or book an appointment on +254 739 935 333, +254 756 454 585 or info@cbtkenya.org.

Author: cbtkeadmin
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