- Grief and loss -
for young people
A lot of people talk about the grieving process being “a roller coaster” – some days will be better than others – and that’s perfectly normal
Grief is a feeling of intense sorrow, which is usually associated with the death of a loved one. It can often include emotional suffering that is painful, and can even feel overwhelming. Sadly, grief and loss is something most people experience in their lives. But as bad as grief feels, it’s the natural, normal and healthy reaction to any form of loss.
While it’s usually associated with the loss of a loved one, feelings of loss, grief and bereavement can be triggered by other events – like moving away from home, changing school, or a family break up. Whatever your loss, its personal to you – so you shouldn’t be ashamed of your emotions, or believe it’s wrong to grieve for some things. If a person, animal, home, relationship, job or situation were important to you – it’s normal to grieve when you lose them.
How you Might Feel
Grief can be different for every person – and can often involve a mix of confusing feelings. It’s very difficult to predict how you will react, but some common responses include:
Feeling sad, emotionally numb, angry, guilty, worried, overwhelmed and even helpless. Some people feel worried or anxious. You may cry a lot – and find yourself upset by things that wouldn’t usually bother you
Being tired, lacking energy and sometimes struggling to sleep. You might also find your eating habits change, and that you struggle with your concentration. You might also find that you lose interest in some things for a little while – and might feel like you don’t want to see people. You might also find yourself avoiding talking, or thinking about the loss
You’ll probably experience a range of thoughts like “I wish I had them back”, “I miss them so much”, “I just wanted more time”
Looking After Yourself
A lot of people talk about the grieving process being “a roller coaster” – some days will be better than others – and that’s perfectly normal. But you need to take extra care of yourself while you’re going through the grieving process as the stress of a major emotional loss can quickly use up your energy and emotional reserves. Below are a few tips. We’ve written them to help you – but they’re equally good for supporting a friend or loved one.
Try to face your feelings. You can push grief down and try to ignore it – but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process – and can put you at risk of longer term problems like depression, anxiety, substance misuse and health problems
Try expressing your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Maybe writing about your loss in a journal, or creating a piece of artwork, or a photo album to celebrate the person or thing you’ve lost could be helpful. Some people choose to get involved in a cause or organisation that was important to your loved one – or take part in events in their memory like Cancer Research’s Race 4 Life
Try to maintain your hobbies and interests. It’s important to still try and take part in the things you enjoy. Routine can be comforting, and getting back to the activities (and people!) you like can help you come to terms with your loss, and help the grieving process
Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel – and don’t tell yourself you should feel a certain way either. Your grief is your own, and no one can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it”. Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel without embarrassment or judgement. It’s OK to be angry, to cry (or not!) and feel frustrated. But it’s also OK to laugh, and find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready
Plan ahead for grief “triggers”. Anniversaries, holidays, and milestones like birthdays can make feelings of loss and grief more intense. Be prepared for this, and know it’s completely normal. If you’re sharing an event or holiday with family and friends, talk to them ahead of time – maybe you could plan to do something nice to remember the person you’ve lost
Look after your physical health. The mind and body are connected. When you feel healthy physically, you’ll be better able to cope emotionally. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat right, and get some exercise. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to try and numb your pain, or artificially lift your mood. It’s important to be kind to yourself