*** This is a collaborative post ***
A couple of nights ago I had to take our beloved family pet to the emergency vet. It was a hard journey because I knew what was going to happen when we got there. We got Harry when he was just eight weeks old and he was 14 and a half when we took him to go to sleep for the last time. He was an integral part of our family and the grief is hitting much more strongly than I ever expected.
People generally don’t like to talk about it, but across our lives we will all, in one way or another, have to deal with grief on a few occasions. As well as bereavement, various other events in our lives can trigger a spell of grief – but whatever the cause, it’s a feeling that hurts perhaps more acutely than any other emotion we may have. So much so that many of us are even troubled by the fear of grief, often worrying about how it will affect us before we have a reason to experience it.
It is important to know how to deal with the emotion when it occurs, because there is no avoiding it. If you have concerns about how grief will affect you, it will be beneficial to take account of the following advice.
Don’t shy away from acknowledging and experiencing grief
There is a – wholly incorrect – sense held by many people that suggests to grieve is weak. Others argue that it’s an unnecessary, unproductive emotion. In response to these beliefs, those people will sometimes maintain that attitude even when they have had their own loss. Some people are back at work as though nothing has happened the day after they’ve experienced a loss. This is not advisable; someone or something you have loved has been lost, and your feelings of love don’t merely stop. It hurts, and acknowledging that pain is an essential part of processing it and living a normal life going forward.
However, there is no correct way to experience grief
We can prepare for grief, and find ways to cushion the blow, and some of these things will work well. Whether it’s something as practical as investing in a funeral plan in advance, or writing a letter in which we let someone know how much they’ve meant to us and how glad we are for the positive memories, it’s always worth making a plan for grief. It’s also true, however, that however much we prepare we can’t predict how grief will hit us.
Some people barely shed a tear for the loss of a much-loved relative; others find themselves absolutely floored by the departure of someone they hardly knew. Neither of these reactions is right or wrong; not crying doesn’t mean you don’t mourn someone’s loss. It’s also worth being aware that some grief may be delayed; it’s not unusual, nor unreasonable, to feel a fresh stab of grief weeks or months after the loss.
Take care of yourself physically
Although grief is an emotional experience, it has physical impacts. You’re unlikely to have much of an appetite in the immediate aftermath and may even feel disinclined to do basic chores. Grief is, in many ways, similar to depression in that respect – and it is likely to feel worse if you don’t pay attention to physical needs. You may have to force yourself to eat, but it is important to do so, and to keep drinking water. Be gentle with yourself – you don’t have to go to the gym as you usually would – but make sure you’re at least keeping your body ticking over.
Everyone experiences grief in their own way
It is important to respect that fact when you experience it yourself. If you prepare mentally, look after yourself physically and grieve in a way that does your loss justice, then you can come through it without undue damage.