When we lose someone we love, it is natural for us to grieve. The grieving process is how we deal with loss – the more significant the loss, the more intense the grief may be.
In many ways, grief can manifest and have an effect on your overall wellbeing, from mental to physical health. You may also experience a number of emotions, such as anger and guilt – not just sadness.
There are usually five stages of grief that end with acceptance. The Mind Faculty explains these below:
This is actually a coping mechanism – it helps us process news that is too difficult to handle, and can make us feel like someone else is going through the tragedy.
“What did my loved one do to deserve this?” “Why is this happening to me?” During this time, when feelings of loss feel the most painful, these thoughts are normal.
Anger is a natural reaction to injustice, and when we feel scared, it is also a way to protect ourselves.
You could find yourself thinking, “If only I had done this” or “Is this part of a master plan?”
when trying to make sense of what has happened. Confusion, longing and desperation can accompany this.
When the news starts to settle in, and you finally start to accept your new reality, you may find that grief arrives in waves of distress or sadness.
The last stage – when you’re to start rebuilding your life without your loved one in it.
It is important to know that grief is not linear – you may find yourself moving two steps forward, only to have something set you back five steps. Not everyone will go through these stage, some may even merge with each other: anger mixed with bargaining, sadness mixed with acceptance. Remember – everybody grieves differently and at their own pace.
If you need professional help when grieving, you can find out more about The Mind Faculty’s services here.
Cancer is a complicated disease – according to WebMD, there isn’t a cure, but there are treatments that may be able to cure some people. It doesn’t help that there’s still a stigma surrounding it either with cancer being stereotyped as a life-threatening disease.
When someone we love is diagnosed with breast cancer, we may find ourselves cycling through anticipatory grief – the mourning that occurs when expecting a death. You know you have to be strong for them, but this can be difficult when you feel like you’re falling apart at the seams. We asked The Mind Faculty how to deal with these feelings without making it harder for your loved one:
- Reach out to your support network
Talk to your other family members, friends or even a counsellor. This is a scary, challenging and devastating situation, so you’re not being weak for needing extra help.
- Practice self-care
You can only be there for your loved one as much as you are there for yourself. Make sure you’re eating healthy and moving your body – even if it’s stretching for 5 minutes a day, and allow yourself a break by going out with friends or someone who is removed from the situation.
- Honor your feelings
You may be tempted to think, “I can’t be be sad, I have to be strong for my loved one”, but by minimizing the way you feel – you won’t allow yourself to grieve or process it properly. Try venting to a friend, keeping a journal or even screaming into a pillow. Your pain is valid.
It’s important to be patient with yourself as grief follows its own timeline. When it comes to caring for them while managing you own stress and anxiety, The Mind Faculty suggests:
- Create positive memories with your loved one
If it’s not possible, you can still reminisce about your favorite times together – try making them a scrapbook.
- Hold space for them
Listen without trying to ‘solve’ what they are going through. For example, if they tell you that they are scared – don’t say, “There’s nothing to be afraid about! Modern medicine is amazing”. Instead, try saying, “I can only imagine how scary it must be for you”.
- Educate yourself
Do your research on breast cancer and their treatments, but don’t overwhelm them with information. To avoid this from happening, allow them to ask you first.
- Watch how you speak about cancer
We usually use ‘war metaphors’ when speaking about cancer. For example – “we must fight it”, “she is a cancer survivor”. This suggests that people who have died from cancer didn’t fight hard enough and can make those who suffer from it feel guilty or inadequate if their treatment isn’t working.
While you can prioritize your loved one, please make sure to take care of your mental health as well. Remember – you can’t pour from an empty cup!
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