“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” – Jamie Anderson

One of the hardest parts of being human is grappling with loss. Grief is the natural response that shows up in the wake of that loss. While it is often discussed in relation to death, you can experience grief across a range of contexts when something special, supportive or meaningful to you is lost. It might be the passing of a loved one but grief can also show up at the end of a relationship, when a job or project comes to an end, or when certain hopes and dreams for the future are no longer possible.

The more significant the loss, the more intense your grief is likely to be. It can impact all areas of your life and have a huge impact on your mental health and overall wellbeing.

Everyone experiences grief in different ways. That’s human. Although you might not ever fully ‘get over’ your loss (or necessarily ever want to), you can find a way to exist with it.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Everyone experiences grief in different ways and multiple factors will likely shape the way you grieve, including what you are grieving, your upbringing and cultural background and if you have support.

The grief experience also shifts and changes over time. The first few days after a loss will likely be very difficult. Then you might experience a range of different feelings, all at once, unexpectedly or in waves over time. This grief can be triggered by certain memories, dates or occasions. Here are a few common feelings, behaviours and symptoms people in grief sometimes experience.

BEHAVIOUR

  • You might withdraw from social situations and isolate yourself
  • You might lose interest in healthy or enjoyable things
  • You might be grumpy and less tolerant of others
  • You might cry or be close to tears
  • You might want to numb difficult feelings, by using alcohol or drugs

FEELINGS

  • You might feel overwhelmed and flooded with intense emotions
  • You might feel in shock, numb or in disbelief
  • You might feel sad, lonely or helpless
  • You might feel distressed, anxious or scared
  • You might feel regretful or relieved
  • You might feel ashamed or guilty

PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS

  • You might notice a change in appetite
  • You might notice a change in sleeping patterns, for example, increased tiredness and lethargy or insomnia
  • Headaches, nausea, aches, or pains

GRIEF & LOSS FAQs

Most commonly, grief refers to your emotional experience during or after the loss of someone or something important to you. But grief can come in many different and overlapping forms, which might include: bereavement (the death of a loved one), anticipatory grief (an expected or imminent loss), disenfranchised grief (when a loss is not or cannot be openly or publicly acknowledged), as well as others.

You can learn more about the different types of grief on the Griefline website here: https://griefline.org.au/resources/types-of-grief/

Grief is often associated as moving through five stages, which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The truth is that there is no standard process for grieving. You might experience one or more of these “stages” at any time while grieving, but they might not occur in this specific order, or may also be experienced with a range of other overlapping complex emotions. You do not need to force your experience of grief to conform to these fixed stages – the reality of grief is far more expansive and diverse.

There is no wrong or right way to grieve and there is no express pass to moving through grief. The grieving process can be long or short and it can feel like it’s over and then return. Give yourself and other people the permission to grieve without imposing expectations or conditions around what it should feel like and how long it should last.

TOP 3 BOOKS

Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief

by Joanne Cacciatore & Jeffrey Rubin

Its Okay That You’re Not Okay: Handling Grief and Loss in a Non-Comprehensive Society

by Jerry Solomon

The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss

by George A. Bonanno

HOW TO SUPPORT YOURSELF THROUGH GRIEF

Although it can feel like grief completely consumes your life, for most people, grief will eventually become less intense. You will have more frequent and extended periods of energy, lightness and hope. Memories become less painful and your loss will become part of your life in a different way. While the pain of loss can make it feel difficult to talk to family and friends, its usually helpful to stay connected to a supportive network of people who will respect and honour your experience of grief and assist in whatever ways they can.

Here are a few activities that have been known to help with grief:

  1. Spend time alone to think, recollect, meditate or pray. You might want to keep a journal to record your thoughts and feelings, or record notes or messages. If you’re creative, you might want to channel your feelings into writing music or making art (although don’t put pressure on yourself to ‘make something’ of your grief)
  2. You might want to capture memories by making a journal, photo album or playlist, invite family and friends to write stories, add songs and share memories
  3. Reach out to others. Talk to someone you trust who will listen openly and non-judgementally. Be clear with others about what you find helpful. Seek out a counsellor or a support group of people going through similar experiences of loss
  4. Take care of yourself. Try to get good quality sleep and approach alcohol and drug use with care. Move your body to boost energy levels. Do things you find relaxing or restorative and get out in nature for an added wellbeing boost. Let yourself keep busy at times and be distracted – you don’t need to commit to confronting your grief through every waking moment

Remember: If you, or someone you care about, is in crisis or at immediate risk, dial 000 now.

RESOURCES & SUPPORT

For some of us, grief might remain intense over a long period of time and disrupt daily functioning,  having a marked impact on our work, relationships and sense of self. A few signs you might need to seek support include:

  • You are struggling to manage on a day-to-day basis
  • You are feeling incapacitated by grief
  • You are finding it difficult to stay connected socially and are cutting yourself off from others
  • You are experiencing intense and constant emotions, such as anxiety, anger, sadness, numbness, guilt and/or depression
  • You are having thoughts of harming yourself
  • You are using drugs or alcohol in an unhealthy way  [link to substance use page]

You can contact our Wellbeing Helpline, where you’ll be connected with a trained counsellor who can answer any questions you might have around grief and provide more personalised resources and support. Please call 1800 959 500 or use the contact form.

For more practical support, Support Act offer funeral help. We are able to contribute towards the cost of a funeral for someone who has worked in the music industry. You can learn more about funeral help here.

GRIEF AND DEPRESSION

Grief and depression are different, but some of the symptoms are similar.

If you are worried that you might have depression, then it’s important to get support.

Learn more about depression here.

FURTHER RESOURCES

What’s Your Grief

Grief Australia

Griefline