Dealing with grief: what you need to know

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At some point, we will all encounter moments when we must confront grief, whether personally experiencing it or providing support to someone in mourning. Grief is a complex emotion that moves through various stages, presenting as one of life’s biggest challenges. Acknowledging your own grief and allowing yourself to undergo the grieving process is important. When you’re aiding someone during their grieving journey, simply being present is the most significant act of support.

Grief is the deep sorrow or distress that follows the loss of: 

  • a loved one 
  • a job 
  • your health 
  • your independence 
  • family separation 
  • relationship breakdown
  • a pet

During grief a range of feelings, physical symptoms, thoughts and behaviours may be encountered: 

  • feelings of anger, anxiety, immense sadness, loneliness, guilt, frustration and helplessness 
  • disbelief and confusion, preoccupation with dying 
  • loss of hope and dreams 
  • focus on missed opportunities 
  • loss of appetite, sleeplessness and headaches. 

Someone who is bereaved may also envisage the deceased person as real, dream of them and perhaps have conversations with them. 

Other signs of difficulty with grief include: 

  • A change in routine behaviour e.g. socialising, sport 
  • Not looking after themselves or their appearance 
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol 
  • Cutting themselves off from others and not attending social and family occasions. 

Who grieves? 

Everyone grieves in their own way.  Responses may be brief or long lasting and they may reoccur.  The experience will be different for everyone.  Try not to take the person’s reactions to the loss personally. 

Sometimes people wrongly assume that a person’s past experiences with loss makes them better able to cope with another. 

How do men cope? 

Some men: 

  • feel that they have to express their grief by actively doing something 
  • feel embarrassed to cry openly or talk about their loss and grief 
  • attempt to suppress their grief and put on a brave face for fear of being seen as weak 
  • may not want to admit they need help and try to maintain their independence 
  • overuse alcohol as a release from their pain 
  • do not eat properly, or take proper care of themselves. 

What can I do to help a person grieving? 

There are many things that the person can and may prefer to do for themselves. Just letting them know that you are there if they need help is often enough. 

Some helpful things you can do are: 

  • Be there. Don’t shy away or avoid the person and their loss 
  • Listen. Don’t give advice unless asked 
  • Let the person talk about their loss and the impact it is having on them 
  • Encourage story-telling and reminiscing 
  • Involve the person whenever possible in social activities 
  • Offer practical help without taking over 
  • Be aware of your own needs and grieving 
  • Take note of any changes in behaviour that are out of character 
  • Encourage them to go for a check-up with their doctor. 

Who can help? 

It is important to allow the person to handle things in their own way. Where possible, support them to do things for themselves. The person should  be encouraged to talk with mates, friends, family or someone they trust. Counsellors can provide additional information, advice and support. Look in the Counselling and Crisis sections for contacts. 

MensLine Australia 

1300 789 978  

Professional and confidential short term telephone counselling. Direct telephone linkage to services if you are in distress. 

Relevant information about services and support programs in your area. Practical support and life strategies for managing difficult situations. 

beyondblue info line  

1300 22 4636
The beyondblue info line provides callers with access to information and referral to relevant services for depression and anxiety related matters. Counselling not provided. 

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