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Grief

Veteran feeling sad - grief image
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About feeling sad/mournful

It can be very painful losing someone or something you care deeply about. You might experience all kinds of difficult emotions, and sometimes it will feel like the pain will last forever and you’ll never get back to normal. There's no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are ways to cope with grief that will help you to recover and move on.

Is my grief a problem?

We usually associate grief with the death of a loved one, but it can also result from other kinds of loss like the end of a relationship or a career, or the death of a pet. The bigger the loss, often the harder it may be to get over.

There are all sorts of myths about loss and grief. Some people will tell you that grief is a sign of weakness – you should just pull yourself together and be strong. Others will tell you that there's a right or wrong way to grieve – if you don’t cry, for example, that must mean that you don’t care. Some people believe there is a set time for grieving – it’s OK to be sad for a year, but then you should suddenly get over it. None of this is true.

Most people will feel pain and find it hard to carry on with their lives after a major loss. All sorts of feelings are common. You might feel shocked and numb, unable to comprehend what has happened. You might be overwhelmed by sadness, feeling empty as though a part of you has been taken away. You might feel angry at who caused your loss or allowed it to happen, or maybe guilty – feeling that you should have done something to stop it. You might be frightened, or worried about how you will cope after this loss.

Grief is not just about emotions – there are often physical aspects to it as well. You might lose your appetite (or maybe eat too much), feel tired, nauseous, have trouble sleeping (or just want to sleep all the time), or have a lot of aches and pains.

Grief can also change the way we behave. You might want to withdraw from everyone and everything – stay at home, draw the curtains, and lock the door, cutting yourself off from the outside world. You might want to drink a lot of alcohol or take other drugs to make the pain go away. You might find yourself being short tempered with people and the world around you. For some people, grief can be associated with depression or even self-harm.

These signs and symptoms are not unusual in people experiencing grief, but they're very unpleasant. If they last too long, if they’re too severe, or if they interfere with your ability to carry on with life and to get on with other people, it's worth doing something about it.

What can I do about dealing with grief?

Self-help

There are no right or wrong ways to deal with the loss of someone or something that you love and no rules about how long it takes. But there are several things you can do to help yourself cope better.

Get support from other people

Try to spend time with friends and family – people you care about. You don’t have to talk about your loss if you don’t want to, just be with other people. Work out a plan for how you can do that; maybe you can contact an old friend, organise to see a movie, have a coffee, or go to a sports game. You might want to join a club or a church, or perhaps a support group with other people who are also grieving. Try to make sure you have some social contact every day. You might find the Social Connection tool in the High Res website and app helpful in making a plan.

Look after your physical health

When you’re grieving, it's hard to take care of yourself. But ignoring your health will only make it harder to cope. Try to eat well and regularly, get plenty of rest, do some exercise every day, and cut down on alcohol and other drugs. You might be surprised what a difference this can make to the way you feel.

The Right Mix website and app can help you maintain a healthy balance between alcohol consumption, diet and exercise. The High Res website and app also has advice and tips for getting physically active and improving your sleep.

Give yourself time to think about your loss

Don’t try to block it out. Share your memories – both good and bad – with someone you trust, or try writing them down. You might want to write a letter to your loved one, or maybe make a scrapbook of photos. It’s often good to do something constructive, like getting involved in a cause that was important to your loved one.

Plan for tomorrow

Try to build in work, exercise, a social activity, and some time alone (but not too much). Include as many enjoyable things as possible. The High Res website also features a personal dashboard you can use to make goals, schedule the use of the resilience tools and track your progress over time. Step by step, this will help you to get your life back on track.

Plan for the future

It might be hard to imagine now, but you do have a future. In the early stages of grief you won’t be thinking very rationally, so it’s not a good idea to make major life decisions. But when you feel a bit better, start making plans and decisions, getting ready to move on. This does not mean forgetting the person or thing you have lost. It means moving on with your life, and finding contentment and happiness again.

Although grief resolves naturally for most people, for some it does not. We call this “complicated grief”. Complicated grief is more likely if the loss has come about in traumatic circumstances. Sometimes it can be linked to posttraumatic stress disorder.



Getting Help

If the strategies above don’t help, if you feel that life is not worth living, if you struggle to be with other people, or if you're unable to carry out your normal role (e.g., as a worker, a parent, a student), then you might benefit from some help.

  • Your GP is always a good place to start. He or she can help with a thorough assessment of the problem and make referrals for specialists.
  • This website has information on a range of professional care that is available to current and former serving members.

Online resources

More information on grief and how to manage it is available from:

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