We recognise that grief can significantly affect your mental and physical health. It can last a short time or a while and it can result in social or emotional reactions. The grieving process is often not linear, and it can affect everyone in different ways.
Grief is a natural response to experiencing loss in our lives. This loss could be the death of someone we are close to, a pet, or maybe a life transition which involves loss of familiarity and relationships.
Managing feelings of grief while getting on with daily life can be extremely difficult but open conversations can normalise the experience of grieving. While grief is a process that takes time and will not get better overnight, there are a few things that can help us cope with these feelings.
Grief affects us all
It affects everyone differently through a personal experience that is difficult and unpredictable. Life changes and reminders might prompt intense feelings that cause intense grief to reemerge, or the grief could be delayed and arrive unexpectedly weeks, months or years after losing a loved one. It might be that you haven’t had the chance to grieve properly yet as life becomes busy with work and personal commitments.
As that grief reappears or occurs for the very first time, it might be an occasion or something familiar that makes it happen. It could be a birthday, an anniversary, a picture, a smell or a sound. There is a chance that losing somebody else could trigger grief.
Grief is a completely unique experience and can get easier to manage over time. For many, the grieving process may never be fully completed.
Grief can be met with guilt when experiencing feelings of relief that a loved one is no longer suffering. This is natural and it is important to remember that is likely you couldn’t have done more for the person. You may feel like you made mistakes but it’s best not to put yourself down in this situation and instead acknowledge that you did your best under the circumstances.
You might experience grief when you have lost someone to suicide, which can become complex and intense. Support is available at Change Mental Health in the Highlands and Argyll & Bute for people coping with bereavement by suicide.
It is natural that you focus on living your life following grief but it’s also important to realise that grief may still linger.
Noticing the symptoms
As grief can impact both your physical and mental health, you might realise that you have no desire to engage with others, experience different behaviours or feel angry, confused or guilty.
Common physical symptoms include problems with sleeping and eating, whether that’s too much or too little, or symptoms of anxiety that include nausea, palpitations or panic attacks.
Typically, you will feel shock. There might be extensive sadness, extreme fatigue, loneliness, and more. You might go through stages of grief in no particular order and even repeated aspects of denial, anger, depression, guilt, vulnerability and acceptance. You might experience positive feelings when going through the grieving process but it’s normal to hold many different feelings at the same time.
Tips on managing grief
You may feel that you are isolated in your grief and fear that you will burden friends and family by discussing your feelings. While you may be reluctant to be around people after suffering a loss, it is important to allow friends and family to reach out to you and support you.
Having another person to talk to and discuss your feelings with will help you to feel less alone in your grief. It can also release the physical burden that carrying these emotions can bring.
You can talk to your networks or a professional about your feelings of grief. This could be friends and relatives, social circles, people within your community, places of worship, emotional support lines and listening services, local support groups, and more.
Remember that it’s important to get help with grief if it is having a huge impact on your life. It’s good to talk when you feel like you’re unable to move on or do the things you normally do. Not getting professional support can lead to losing interest in hobbies, work and study, self-neglect or closing a circle within yourself that prevents you from maintaining relationships with the people most important to you and new people.
There is online support available where you can find more detailed information on how to manage mental health and grief:
Website links for support on grief
Many people that have suffered a bereavement, especially a sudden death benefit from talking with a therapist.
You may feel more comfortable opening up to a therapist as they are not emotionally connected to you which may prompt you to discuss your feelings more freely.
Therapists are professionals that will help you to work through your feelings and process the different stages of grief. Speak to your local GP about counselling services available in your area.
Look after yourself
When receiving support, follow the support journey you’re on and allow yourself time process your grief. It’s good to have keep up socialising, physical activity and hobbies for a distraction. Remember, you may have practical issues to deal with after a loved one’s death and it’s important to plan dates such as anniversaries ahead to prevent symptoms of grief coming into sight again. Always manage your stress levels too and try to remain positive.
Look after your health
When grieving it can be easy to neglect yourself and your health. However, prioritising your well-being is very important, so you do not become burnt out. Try to make sure that you get plenty of sleep, maintain healthy eating habits, and get out into the fresh air daily for a walk.
Benefits for the bereaved
We know that the death of a close family member can also affect your finances and further compound the grieving process.
There are certain benefits available for those bereaved in Scotland. Such as the Bereavement Support Payment, and the Funeral Support Payment.
Visit our Mental Health and Money Advice service website for more information on mental health and money worries.