Grief is a completely natural part of being a human being. At one point or another, every person alive will experience this emotion in their lifetime. Grief is a bit different than simply feeling sad or upset, it is a much stronger experience usually brought about by a dramatic life change such as the death of a loved one or an unexpected diagnosis.
While everyone experiences grief, the way it manifests from person to person almost always varies. We are all unique individuals going through life with wildly different perspectives. However, there are certain responses to grief that are either healthy or unhealthy, regardless of who is experiencing them.
In this article, we are going to discuss a few healthy and unhealthy responses to grief so that you are more aware of how you or someone in your life is handling a difficult place in life.
- Allowing Yourself Enough Time To Heal
Given that grief is brought caused by a traumatic life experience, it is crazy to think that getting through the process should be quick. Pretending like everything is okay and back to normal, feeling as if you should have gotten over it by now is nonsense. If you are in the grieving process, be kind to yourself. Realize that there is no set timeframe for your situation. This also goes for dealing with someone in your life going through a similar ordeal.
- Distinguishing Between Alone Time & Isolation
It is normal to want to be alone more than usual when experiencing grief. Being alone is a healthy way to gather your thoughts and sort things out mentally. However, extended periods of isolation in which you shut yourself off to the outside world entirely not the right decision.
As humans, we are social creatures, and this includes dealing with tough emotional situations. Giving yourself or someone you know time alone during the grief process is healthy as long as this does not turn into complete isolation.
- Feel Safe To Vent
Grief is one of the strongest emotions that a person can feel. Therefore, there is often a huge buildup of emotional tension that, if kept bottled up, can be extremely detrimental moving forward. It is important to understand that venting is okay, as long as it is not harmful to you or anyone else.
If you need the ear of someone close to you to pour your heart out, let them know. If punching your pillow for half an hour gives you a bit of peace, knock it out. Emotions of this magnitude must not be suppressed.
- Chronic Denial
Although denial is somewhat common in the early stages of the grieving process, this becomes unhealthy in a chronic state. In an attempt to protect itself, the mind will often try to block the traumatic event, forming a sort of fantasy in which it never happened. Among other things, chronic denial inhibits the healing process. When a person never accepts whatever terrible thing has happened, a vicious cycle occurs that never allows any resolution.
- Risk-Taking Behavior
It is somewhat common for a person to engage in uncharacteristically risky behavior when dealing with grief. Whether to vent, suppress the hurt or forget what has happened, the individual may turn to external coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol, or life-threatening acts. Why this is an unhealthy response needs no explanation.
However, it is important that if you are experiencing this behavior that you seek help. Likewise, if you notice this grief response in someone else, it is critical that you take action to prevent one tragedy from leading to another.
- Excessive Guilt
When referring to excessive guilt, we are not talking about a situation in which you are grieving something for which you are responsible for. That is an entirely different animal. Instead, many people feel a sense of unwarranted guilt for a traumatic situation.
They feel like they could have done more to prevent it or like they may have been an underlying cause of the event. This response not only hinders the healing process, it also takes an immense toll on a person’s emotional and physical health.
5 Ways the Grief Process Can Be Unhealthy
Grief can appear in many different ways based on different situations and people, contrary to the common belief that death is its only form. Whether it be the loss of a job, a home, or one’s health, grief brings about intense and confusing emotions that can be extremely difficult to control and let go of.
The grieving process occurs in phases that can vary from person to person, but it can be a long process that takes time and support. It can make you lose focus and touch with reality, it can bring about feelings of anger, worry, and anxiousness, and can leave you feeling isolated and overwhelmed.
There are healthy and unhealthy ways to grieve, but it is important to recognize them and work towards a process that will bring about positivity. Below are five examples of ways that the grief process can be unhealthy.
When someone experiencing grief is not one to express their emotions, there is a good chance that they will try to avoid the grief and not want to face their emotions for a long period of time. They will make efforts to constantly stay busy, over-work, and avoid different places that may trigger emotions in order to try and cope and forget about what is going on.
Even if it takes a while, it is important to eventually sit down with your thoughts, feelings, and tough emotions and understand that what you are going through is a process and is normal. This way, you can understand your feelings and eventually heal rather than forcing them to not resurface.
- Delayed reaction
If the loss occurred very unexpectedly or there are other things going on during the time of loss, you may feel confused and in denial about the event. You may feel like your life is in slow motion but everything around you is moving very fast, and you may not know how to change the process.
You may feel exhausted all the time and notice yourself sleeping for long periods of time, but you will not understand why and will not feel those deep intense emotions for a very long time.
When they do arise, it may feel uncomfortable and delayed because you may not want to talk to loved ones for support since it happened so long ago. However, it is important to understand that your support system will be there for you no matter what and it is okay to grieve later than others.
- Exaggerated reaction
Exaggerated grief is the feeling where one emotion is extremely intensified for a prolonged period of time, and this can potentially lead to serious mental and emotional disorders. For example, if during the process of grieving, you feel a constant state of anger and depression that lasts for an extremely long time, you may feel stuck and feel as if the grief process is not going anywhere. If this occurs, it is important to speak with a medical professional as it will start impacting your productivity and motivation in life.
Numbing the pain you may be feeling throughout the grief process by refusing to acknowledge it, choosing to use substances, or not reacting to situations and memories that may come up can be very negative and detrimental to the grieving process. Sitting down with your emotions and recognizing them is a great way to reverse this and find the ability to reach out to others for support rather than keeping things bottled up.
- Distorted reaction
Distorted grief occurs when you find yourself very hostile and angry at yourself and those around you, even if they are experiencing the same feelings as you. You may feel like you are going crazy without explanation, and these feelings may seem atypical.
In order to overcome these feelings, it is important to speak with a therapist or other medical professional to talk through stages of the grieving process that can help you.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.