Grief is more than sadness. The grief resulting from the loss of a loved one comes with a wide spectrum of emotions: it’s common to miss the person, to feel anger, bitterness, fury, guilt, anxiety, despair, loneliness, depression, hopelessness, isolation, agony, pain, helplessness, exhaustion, fear, terror, unsafety and shame. The loss may also come with emotions that are regarded as positive, such as relief and joy. Besides emotions, the loss affects a person’s behaviour and attitudes – and manifests itself as physical reactions in your body.
Life changes permanently with loss. Grief is more than a disturbance to get over with – it’s a normal reaction to a heavy loss. The goal of a grieving person is not to ‘let go’ of their dead loved one, it’s to adapt to a life without their loved one. Time will bring new things into your life without breaking up your relationship with the deceased.
The most acute pain will ease with time, but you will never have to stop missing your loved one. Grief can bring about positive changes: the bereaved person may feel that their values have changed for the better. They may value life and people dearest to them more. On the other hand, if you lose your loved one to violence, you may feel permanently disappointed with humanity and life.
Not all bereaved people need medical assistance, but they all need compassionate interaction that treats their loss respectfully. Even the most devastating of losses does not always lead to clinical disorders.
The greatest risk factor in grief is not receiving help and support. Research indicates that support by a professional has a major impact on the wellbeing of the grieving person, both in the short and long term.
It is the professional’s job to encourage the social network of the grieving person to help them. The grieving person should also be encouraged to seek peer support and other professional help if needed. For many, the support of their loved ones and peers is most important.