Working through grief differs for every person

A death of a loved one, a job loss, the end of a marriage, an illness or disability. Everyone faces losses and grief, but the toll that grief can take on the mind and body can catch many people by surprise.

In years past, grief often was described as following a certain pattern or orderly progression from one feeling to another, according to a recent issue of the Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.1 But there is no one way to grieve. People who are grieving experience many different emotions in any number of combinations. They might include denial, sadness, anger, confusion, despair, and even guilt. Physical reactions can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, a drop in energy level, body aches and pain, or the development or worsening of an illness.

Time spent grieving varies, too. Some people take months to fully accept or adapt to a loss. For others, the process may take years. To help cope with grief, people can:

• Express feelings.

Suppressing thoughts and emotions might prevent working through grief. Friends, family, or members of the religious community often can be a source of support and comfort. Other options are support groups or grief counselors.

• Delay any major decisions or changes.

Decisions that affect life and lifestyle, such as housing changes or new ways of handling finances, should wait a while. Advice from a trusted family member or friend, financial adviser, or attorney might be helpful.

• Take care of personal health.

Eating right, getting adequate sleep, and limiting alcohol are important. Regular exercise can relieve stress and anxiety.

• Be patient.

Expecting to simply "get over" grief is unrealistic. Ups and downs might last for weeks or months following a loss. Though some feelings of loss might never fully go away, the most intense signs and symptoms of grief typically diminish over time, within six months or so. Grief that is prolonged and debilitating might be a sign of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. A doctor should be consulted for treatment options.

Reference

1. Mayo Clinic. Coping with loss — a look at grief and the grieving process. Mayo Clinic Wom HealthSource 2009; 13:1-2.