In the wake of a loved one's death, waves of grief can hit at seemingly random times. Maybe they swell while you are driving a familiar route, getting the mail, grocery shopping, or watching TV. Or perhaps your grief manifests as a persistent numbness, and routine activities like cooking, reading, or showering suddenly feel meaningless or overwhelming. It is often the most mundane things that amplify the sudden absence of your loved one in your life.
Common Barriers to Social Support
Unfortunately, death is often treated as a taboo subject-even though it is an inevitable part of life. You may notice others avoiding or skirting over conversations about your loved one, their death, or your grief. This may be a well-intentioned attempt to avoid upsetting you, but it can feel like an erasure of your loved one's memory and minimization of your pain. As a result, it can be surprisingly difficult to find opportunities to openly express your grief to others. It is not uncommon to feel alone and isolated while grieving.
"Growing Around Grief" Vs. "Moving On"
You may also feel increasing social pressure or an inner desire to "get back to normal" or "move on," but a significant death can affect every aspect of your life. Grieving is not a linear process, nor is it something you can just leave behind. It can be helpful to keep in mind that there is no universal timeline or right way to grieve.
Lois Tonkin (1996) suggests that grief is something we always carry, even as we learn to grow around it. Grief does not shrink or disappear, but our capacity to hold it can increase with time and effective support.
Image credit: What's Your Grief (https://whatsyourgrief.com/growing-around-grief/)
Knowing When and Where to Seek Help
It can be helpful to seek peer support or professional help at any point following the death of a loved one. Local community, hospice, and religious organizations often host grief support groups where you can connect and share with other individuals who are grieving. It can also be helpful to process the death of your loved one with a registered psychotherapist, psychologist, or counsellor, where support is confidential, one-on-one, and tailored to your unique circumstances and concerns. Therapy can provide a space to process death and even experience profound personal growth through your grief.
Professional support is often recommended when grieving interferes with your ability to function or care for yourself and/or your dependents. Additionally, professional support may be appropriate if you are:
- Always thinking about your deceased loved one or the circumstances of their death;
- Blaming yourself for the death or for circumstances around the death;
- Concerned about how you are coping (e.g., substance use or self-harm);
- Consistently avoiding people, places, or situations that remind you of your loved one;
- Experiencing persistent and intense emotional pain, sorrow, or yearning;
- Feeling angry or bitter about the loss;
- Feeling like you no longer know who you are since the death;
- Feeling overwhelmingly alone and isolated;
- Feeling persistently emotionally numb;
- Feeling that life is now meaningless or empty;
- Finding it difficult to accept that your loved one has died;
- Finding it difficult to experience any kind of joy;
- Finding it difficult to remember the positive things about your loved one;
- Finding it hard to trust others since the death;
- Grieving a sudden or traumatic death (e.g., accidental death, homicide, or suicide); and
- Wanting to die to be with your loved one.
Keep in mind that many of the above can be completely normal responses to death, and grief looks different for everyone. Ultimately, the decision to seek professional support as you grow around grief is a personal one. Below are some local resources available to support your grief. If you are looking for individual psychotherapy to process your grief, reach out to us to speak with one of our clinicians.
Prince Edward County and Quinte Region
- Enrichment Centre
Suicide bereavement group (Belleville):
- Hospice Quinte
Six-week bereavement group (Belleville):
- Hospice Prince Edward County
Individual and group bereavement support (Wellington):
- Bereaved Families of Ontario (Toronto)
Various bereavement support groups
- Circle of Care (Toronto & Virtual)
Various bereavement support groups
- Good Grief (Toronto)
Bereavement groups, drop-ins, and workshops
- Healing Hearts (Virtual)
Virtual bereavement groups serving northern Canada
- Hospice Yukon (Whitehorse)
Various bereavement groups, drop-ins, and workshops