Grief is a natural process. It’s part of being human. We tend to think of grief occurring when a person close to us dies. The reality is that any change in life -a relationship breakup, retirement or a behaviour change can trigger the grieving process.

Grief is the way we adjust and process the changes that happen to us. It’s normal.

How do we navigate through grief? And what does it feel like? Everyone is different. I have had the privilege of interacting with many different people in my role as a GP. Over the past few months I’ve spoken to people about their experiences of grieving and what seems to help.

What’s it like?

“Feelings of confusion alternating with periods of anxiety, sometimes panic.”

“I’ve found I switch between feeling nothing at all – actually feeling quite numb and periods of intense emotion. I cry and then feel angry and feel sad. It switches frequently.”

Some people have reported extreme tiredness and physical pain. There is a crossover in the human nervous system with how these experiences are processed.

It’s not uncommon and very natural for people who are grieving to seek out the company of others and dislike being alone. Others have said that being alone was helpful for them. It really does depend on the individual.

What helps?

Here are a few things that people have found helpful:

Spending time with loved ones and friends. This isn’t necessarily to talk about the grieving process (although this can help). We are social creatures and so supportive relationships are beneficial for us.

Allowing the process to unfold at its own rate. Grieving is a journey and over time it gets easier as we adjust to the changes. This may mean allowing difficult emotions to surface. Feeling the emotions allows us to move through the process

Eating regularly (healthy food), drinking plenty of water and getting a good night’s sleep. The process of grief is tiring and these measures will help.

Keeping busy. This can help as the activity acts as an antidote to stress and stickiness

Keep in mind that however difficult is seems at the moment, this too will pass. It does get better.

Further reading

Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist. She is most well-known for her work on the stages of grief.