Dealing with loss can be a challenging and difficult time. We’ve prepared this page to help you understand how you may be feeling in the days and weeks after a loss.
The first few days
During the first few days following a loss, you may feel shock or numbness.
In a way, this is how the body helps people through the initial pain. You might also be unable to focus on even simple tasks and not be fully aware of what you’re doing.
Others may think you’re holding up well, but the reality of your loss might still be sinking in.
If your loved one had a long-term illness, there could also be a sense of relief that his or her suffering is over. These feelings are normal, and are nothing to feel guilty about it.
The first few weeks
In the first few weeks following a loss, you may feel abandoned or forgotten by family and friends who have moved on and returned to their usual routine.
Or, if you’re still in shock, you might be thinking that the grieving process isn’t as hard as you feared.
For many people, the shock and numbness wears off around 6-12 weeks after a loss.
Around this time, the reality of the loss begins to set in, and some people report feeling tremendous emotional pain.
Some of the symptoms you might notice are:
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling weak
- Changed appetite - leading to significant weight loss or gain.
During this time, it’s normal to experience good and bad days. Grief comes in waves – and this can be triggered by new losses or small events that seem like no big deal.
If you’ve taken on more responsibilities because of the loss, you may experience feelings of helplessness or feel incapable
There is hope, and it does get better
Eventually, you will start adjusting to life without your loved one.
You find new routines, new hobbies, and new sources of support.
As time goes on, you’ll feel more comfortable with your new life.
Taking steps towards feeling better
You will never be able to cure the grieving feelings, but there are steps and strategies that can help you cope and start to feel better.
- Understand the grieving process – learn that grief is normal, natural, and takes time. It’s not a race – nor should it be about ‘getting over it’ quickly. Take your time, and grieve at your own pace.
- Accept help – don’t be afraid to reach out to others when you need help or support
- Write down your feelings – keep a diary and write down how you’re feeling every day
- Distract yourself – distraction doesn’t mean you’re trying to forget about the person you’re grieving for, it just means you’re taking steps to help yourself cope and you’re giving yourself a break
- Keep the memory of your loved one alive – many people talk to the people they’re grieving for, and this is completely normal; involve your loved one in your daily life and ask yourself what they would say or do in situations you find yourself in
- Prioritise your health – get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly
What if I’m not feeling better?
While some feelings of sadness and even moodiness are a normal part of grieving, but it’s important to be aware when these feelings are more than just grief.
Depression is a serious illness, and signs that you could be experiencing depression include:
- Feelings of guilt
- Ongoing worthlessness and hopelessness
- Being unable to eat or shower
- Crying for long periods of time
- Eating a lot or not at all
- Anxiety or feeling afraid
- Sleeping too much, or too little
Where can I find help?
It’s important to see your doctor or counsellor if you think you are suffering from depression. Beyond Blue can also provide advice and resources to help.
Please phone your doctor, psychologist or counsellor immediately if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, extreme rage, or are starting to engage in reckless behaviours.
Lifeline Australia have a free phone line for all Australians who are experiencing personal crises. Phone 13 11 14 or visit https://www.lifeline.org.au