By: Lorena Quinones, Clinical Intern
Let’s face it, 2020 was a doozy! At this point, it’s safe to say we’ve all experienced some form of grief and loss. Grief is what we think and feel after a sudden or unexpected loss. For instance, a death in the family, the passing of a family pet, losing a job; going through a divorce or a recent breakup can also elicit these feelings.
What Does Grief Look Like?
– Shock, disbelief, or denial
– Periods of sadness
– Loss of sleep and loss of appetite
Adolescents and young adults can also experience:
– Significant changes in sleep patterns
– Increase isolation or withdrawing from usual activities
– Often appearing irritable or frustrated
– Engaging more frequently with technology
The grieving process requires time. It’s common for symptoms to last at least a year. With Complicated Grief, symptoms can linger past 3 years. (Complicated grief happens when the nature of the loss is traumatic and it depends on the intensity of the relationship.) When complicated grief is present, therapy or support groups can be a helpful part of healing. Remember to be kind and patient with yourself and others because we all react and cope with loss in our own way.
Talking About & Understanding Grief
It can be difficult knowing what to say when someone we care about is mourning a loss. While mourning my own personal losses, the most helpful messages were messages that were specific. Being specific in how you plan to offer support is important because the person grieving may not know what they need or how to ask for help. An example could be, instead of saying, “I’m here if you need anything,” try saying, “I’m here if you need a dog sitter” or “I’m free on Thursdays if you ever need me to pick the kids up from school.”
The most important thing you can do in supporting children or teens cope with grief is to provide a safe space for discussing thoughts and feelings when they surface. To learn more on how to help kids and teens cope with grief check out this article.
Acknowledge that you may still feel the loss very intensely, even after months or years afterward. It’s okay to feel stuck. In fact, it’s normal to experience fits and starts in the healing process. Check out The Mourners Bill of Rights to empower you in your grief as you heal. It helps distinguish unhelpful responses from harmful ones.
Consider The Ocean Metaphor
One of my favorite metaphors when thinking about coping with grief is the ocean metaphor. Grief comes in waves, some waves slam you underwater, there is turbulence, uncertainty, fear, and the depths can feel bottomless. Other waves are rolling. Calm and subtle. We may not even feel them when they hit. Over time, we can learn to ride the waves, accepting them as they come and being thankful to have experienced the ocean.