We all know or will know what it is like to feel grief. Grief comes from loss, and it can be from any loss. It may be the result of the end of a friendship; giving up a child; moving away from family or loved ones; a job loss or the death of someone we love. Grief is how we feel about this. Because every relationship is unique, we grieve the loss of each relationship differently.

Grief is much more than just a person’s emotional response to a loss. Grief is everything about the loss. Grief does, of course, include emotions and thoughts but it also includes physical and behavioural responses as well. Grief is contradictory and confusing. When you are grieving you may feel a need to be a part of something or to be away from everything. You may need to feel deeply or to avoid your feelings all together; you might want to talk or be silent. When we grieve we may have a flood of different emotional, physical, social and behavioural responses. We may feel sad, angry, guilty, anxious, lonely, tired, helpless, shocked or just numb.

Grief can affect us physically as well. It may cause a hollow feeling in the stomach or a tightness in the chest and throat. It could make us feel dry in the mouth, oversensitive to noise, short of breath or tired and irritable to our friends and family. Grief may cause changes in our behaviour such as sleep and appetite disturbances, absent-minded behaviour, social withdrawal, vivid dreams, restless overactivity, and crying. We may have feelings of disbelief, confusion, and even wild imaginations. Sufferers may turn to alcohol and drugs to escape. Grief may cause one person to experience bad depression, anxiety, alcoholism or drug abuse, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Other people might suppress any feelings of loss and appear totally unaffected. For some people grief is prolonged, and seems to never end. It may seem impossible to “move on.”

Dealing with grief is very, very difficult. But here is some advice. It will take time.

Accept the reality of your loss
Work through the pain of grief
Adjust to the environment from which your loved one is now missing
Emotionally relocate your loss and move on with life
Once these four things have been completed, they say, grief is on the way to being resolved. If you settle your grief it doesn’t mean that you have abandoned the memory of your loved one; rather it is that you recognise a different perspective on the deceased and begin to find joy in your life and in relationships with others. It is not the end of a relationship it is a transformation. But remember you don’t have to go it alone. If you are having problems dealing with loss there are grief counsellors who can help you make sense of the loss. If you think you may need help contact your Aboriginal Medical Service.

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