What Is It?
Grief is a strong emotion that is a natural reaction to loss (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Loss is not just from someone passing away. There are many different types of losses a person will cope with within their life, such as loss of relationship (breakup from an intimate partner or friend or family), loss of safety, loss of job, and more. Everyone experiences grief differently, and different situations bring different feelings of grief and loss. It was once thought that there were stages of grief, but the lines of grief are blurred. It does not just operate stepwise. Helping a child with grief can be challenging as everyone has different mourning periods.
What Does It Feel Like?
Grief has many different parts, and everyone experiences it differently. There is no set way to experience grief.
Grief can feel like:
- Disbelief, shock, or denial
- Nothingness/numb or disconnection
- Panic or fear
- Rage or anger
- Mixed emotions
- Hard time sleeping
- Change in weight/appetite
- Feeling physically unwell (upset stomach, rundown, aches, etc.)
- It can influence one’s mental health (substance use, depression, anxiety)
Grief typically does not happen stepwise. We can experience many emotions or feelings that can shift throughout the day, week, and months.
How Can We Cope With Loss?
Like anything, grief does not go away if we ignore it. It will turn up in other ways in our lives.
Some tips for coping with grief for your child/youth and you:
- Do not ignore it
- Acknowledge the pain
- Feel your feels
- Express yourself (art, journaling, music, dancing, scrapbooking, etc.)
- Connect with others
- Keep doing your “things” – continue with your routine and hobbies
- Take care of yourself (eat well, get enough sleep, exercise)
- Avoid alcohol or drugs (while it might momentarily make you feel better, it can make it worse)
- Allow yourself space to feel your emotions
- Do not “should” yourself – For example, “I shouldn’t feel this way,” “I should be doing this.”
- Do not allow others to tell you how to feel/tell others how they should feel- it is an individual journey
- Talk to someone about it – a loved one, mental health professional, elder, spiritual leader, etc.
- Practice self-compassion – be kind to yourself
All articles referenced above are collated here for your convenience and further reading:
If you would like to speak to someone about mental health issues, the Alberta Health Services Mental Health Help Line is available 24/7, offering information and referrals on any aspect of mental health.