Everyone’s experience of grief is unique and individual. However, there are some commonalities that exist. Understanding the signs and symptoms of grief and loss can be helpful in supporting others and looking after yourself.
Feelings associated with grief
- Shock and disbelief
- Yearning (a feeling of intense longing for something or someone)
- Physical discomfort
- Out of character reactions - people can’t always name how they are feeling and acting
Times when you might experience grief
- A loved one: through death, break up of a relationship or location.
- Pets: through death or having to give them away.
- Health: through illness or accident.
- Places: As a result of moving away or no longer being able to visit.
- Possessions: through theft or accident.
- A Job: As a result of changing jobs or being made redundant.
- Colleagues and friends: As we grow our colleagues and friends can change.
- Financial/Lifestyle: As a result of change in life circumstances.
- Our place in the world – As we grow our world does too; we may miss being a student; experience loss when our children leave home; miss being a certain age or even grieve for good times that we had.
If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, please contact your GP or alternatively you can speak with a student advisor at Atawhai Ākonga | Student Care who will help you to identify appropriate supports for you and refer on as needed.
Myth: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it
Myth: It is important to “be strong” in the face of loss
Fact: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.
Myth: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry for the loss
Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it. Not everyone grieves in the same way.
Myth: Grieving should last about a year
Fact: There is no specific time frame for grieving. How long it takes differs from person to person. Grief does not follow a predetermined pattern.
Myth: Moving on with your life means forgetting about your loss.
Fact: Moving on means you’ve accepted the loss – but that’s not the same as forgetting. You can move on with your life and keep the memory of someone or something you lost as an important part of you. In fact, as we move through life, these memories can become more and more integral to defining the people we are.
Strategies for coping with grief and loss:
- Take some time out to grieve. This can mean taking time off from work, study, and other commitments to allow yourself time to mourn. Or you may like to return to your usual routine as a way of coping. There is no right or wrong way. You may choose to have set times in the day specifically to grieve and honour what you have lost, everyone grieves differently.
- Seek support from your friends and family. Talk to them about how you are feeling and how they can best support you.
- Find a way to express your feelings either through talking to someone, writing in a journal, creating music or art, whatever works best for you.
- Seek guidance and structure from your culture or religion to support you in your grief.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Look after you and try to keep to your routine. The 5 Ways to Wellbeing model can act as a reminder to take care of yourself during this time.
- Try to maintain your hobbies and interests if you feel able.
- Seek out professional support.
Supporting others through grief and loss:
- Let the grieving person know you are there for them
- Listen to understand, not to respond. Sometimes the person is not looking for help or advice, they just want to talk to someone
- Understand that everyone grieves in different ways and for different lengths of time
- Ask them how you can support them. It may be to just listen, or they might need some help with practical things like cooking or running errands.
- Gather some options for them to get support, this could be their GP or a student care advisor at UC. Let them decide their next steps.