Unfortunately, as we get older, we are likely to experience more grief. The loss of friends and loved ones can hit hard at any point, and it can be difficult to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
If someone you know is currently grieving, or you’re experiencing grief yourself, this guide should hopefully help you understand the situation a little better and how you can help someone get through the difficult time.
When someone or something we love is taken away, we feel a deep sorrow called grief. Grief is a natural emotion and a healthy response to losing something. But the process is complex, and there is no one-size-fits-all. People can grieve more intensely than others, and different people grieve different things.
‘Normal’ grief is most commonly associated with the death of a loved one, where profound sadness and emotional turmoil can ensue. Other reasons for what we see as ‘standard’ grief can be divorce, a bad diagnosis, or even the loss of a friendship. However, there are actually several other types of grief someone can experience, and a few are highlighted below.
Grief in anticipation
Anticipatory grief can occur when someone feels an intense sadness about a loss that hasn’t actually happened yet. This is particularly common for people who are given a terminal diagnosis or when a loved one is battling a terminal illness. Anticipatory grief can be confusing and may often lead to guilt, feelings of helplessness, and anger due to a lack of control in the situation.
It’s not just the loss of the person themself that can cause anticipatory grief. The loss of future, time, and dreams can be associated with it, and therefore may need the same grieving process. However, this process can often lead to a light at the end of the tunnel where someone can find it easier to accept the loss and find closure or peace.
Complicated and Chronic Grief
The grieving process is different for everyone and doesn’t have a set timeline. However, people suffering from chronic and complicated grief struggled to find the end of the distress. They’ll make very little progress, no matter how much time passes. This kind of grief needs serious medical attention, as it can quickly lead to severe mental health issues such as major depressive disorder.
When someone experiences a number of losses – either at once or over time – they can suffer from cumulative grief. Seniors are more likely to experience this form of grief after reflecting on their lives or when they have to adapt to a number of different live events over a short space of time (diagnosis, loss of a partner, moving into care, etc.)
This kind of grief is particularly difficult to work through. It often occurs when society doesn’t deem your loss as significant enough for grieving. However, it can also occur when grief is linked to other feelings; people can feel disenfranchised grief about the loss of an abusive partner, a suicide, or after long-term suffering.
As the average person might not understand this level of grief, it can be harder to be open with your emotions in public, and as such, people can bottle things up and exude the emotions in other, dangerous ways.
Broken Heart Syndrome
Broken heart syndrome is a very real type of grief. It can be triggered by a stressful situation and bring on a world of extreme emotions. The condition is typically temporary, and it’s more often experienced by women. A person will feel a huge surge of stress hormones, leading to physical ailments such as intense chest pain or tightness. The death of a loved one, divorce or just a breakup can cause the condition.
In later life, the elderly may lose their life partner and find it difficult to adapt to life without them. Alone in the family home can often come with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Declining mental health can also be linked to depleting cognitive function. If you think your relative or friend is suffering from long-term grief, broken heart syndrome, or depression, it may be worth looking into senior living Aliso Viejo. Assisted living communities are a great way to help provide support and purpose. Seniors can regain their independence while also being able to live in a safe and engaging community. Residents are encouraged to take part in activities and socialize, which can help them create new friendships and a healthy support network during their time of need.
How to help someone who is grieving
As mentioned above, grief can be a long and winding path that is experienced by everyone differently. This means there are a whole number of ways to help someone who is grieving – but not all of them will work for everyone.
The best thing to do is to support them and be present, rather than questioning their emotions or trying to rush them. It can be, therefore, quite difficult to know what to say. Below are a few helpful words you can say to someone grieving.
- I am sorry for your loss
- Please know I care
- I wish I had the right words to make it better
- I may know not exactly how you feel, but I am here for you
- I’m always just at the end of the phone
You could even start a conversation with your favorite memory of the person they’ve lost and encourage them to do the same.
Of course, there are also certain things you should stay away from, as these can be misconstrued or appear insensitive.
- At least they had a long life
- They’re in a better place
- Everything happens for a reason
- It might be time to move forward and get over it
- They were so great; God wanted them with him
- I understand how you feel
- Stay strong
Grieving is a process, and there are healthy and unhealthy ways to approach it. It’s worth reminding yourself that just because someone else is ‘over it’, that doesn’t mean you have to be. In order to work through grief, there needs to be an element of acceptance for the loss and the finality of the situation. Only then can someone work to adjust, cope and acknowledge their feelings. Healthy grieving skills include mindfulness, journaling, or getting out and about. There comes a time when remembering the greatness of the person is easier than focusing on the loss.