One of the most traumatic and difficult events we can experience is the death of someone we know.
News of a death can cause intense emotions. Even if the loss is not a surprise (due to illness), it can feel shocking. Grieving is the period of coming to terms with the realization that the deceased is no longer with us. For some people, it can bring about strong and sometimes delayed reactions.
What reactions can be expected during the grieving process?
- Grieving is a normal process, but people grieve for different amounts of time, in different ways. These things depend on your relationship with the deceased and your history of personal loss.
- Part of the grieving process is coming to terms with the fact that the deceased will not come back. Over time, the person’s loved ones learn to live with the memories that remain.
- For many, grief is experienced through different stages. These can include denial, sadness, anger, disorganization, acceptance, and reorganization. Some of these stages may affect your normal day-to-day functioning.
- The stages of grief don’t happen in any set order. Instead, they often happen in cycles. You may move in and out of different stages at different times. In the very early stages, after hearing the news, you may go from feeling numb to feeling intense waves of grief. Over time, these waves may return when certain events rekindle the feelings of loss. This could be the person’s birthday, the first office party without the person, etc.
- Your reactions may include feelings of sadness or anger. You could be questioning the meaning of life in general, or of your own life. You may need more solitude or more social support than usual. You could also experience concentration problems, irritability, or fatigue.
- You may find it harder to work while grieving. Many people experience problems such as difficulty focusing and making decisions.
- Everyone works through the grieving process in their own unique way and at their own pace. Although it’s different for everyone, over time, you will start to come to terms with what has happened. You will begin to regain a sense of stability, though you may still feel different than you did before.
How can you best manage your grief?
- First, do not try to neglect or minimize your emotions. It is normal to need time to accept loss. The time required for dealing with loss is unique to every person.
- Give yourself permission to share your feelings with those people you feel comfortable with. This could be your family, friends, or others.
- Stay as active as you can. Structured activities and some form of exercise are proven to be very helpful for coping through grief. Even 10–20 minutes of walking a day can help. Walking with someone you are comfortable with can be good for both of you.
- Resume your favourite activities, particularly those that energize you. Consider trying new activities that may support your well-being. It’s easier to choose positive behaviours than it is to change our thoughts or emotions.
- As much as you can, reflect on how this event has impacted you. Share these thoughts with the people closest to you.
- Give yourself permission to move forward and gradually regain your normal sense of self.
It’s natural to be affected by the news of a death. But eventually, we all need to get back to our regular lives. The path to “normal” may take days, weeks, or months. If you are finding it difficult to carry out your responsibilities, consider addressing this with your manager. You could also talk to a trusted coworker. If you hold a job where other people’s safety might be impacted by your grieving process, discuss this immediately with your manager.