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There are so many things to enjoy about life. Hand in hand with this enjoyment is the fact that there will sometimes be tough periods in life. These periods will see individuals saying goodbye to family and friends, moving cities, leaving jobs or even losing beloved pets. 

While everyone will, at some stage of their life, experience grief, this feeling will be processed differently. Some may move through the stages of grief quickly, meanwhile, others seem to flounder. 

When dealing with grief, it’s important to note the different types of grief that people can experience, the associated symptoms and of course, the way forward. This ensures that despite the hard times, there is the realisation that life goes on. 

Definition of Grief

Grief is defined as a normal and natural response to loss. This loss can take the form of both something and someone that you love. However, from there, responses to grief can vary. There can be a range of emotions such as sadness and anger and even shock and guilt. 

While this range of emotions may seem concerning, they are a normal response to loss. In fact, experiencing them actually indicates a healthy response to grief. This is because your body and mind is actually attempting to cope with the loss. 

Different Types of Grief

When attempting to understand grief, it is important to note that there are different types. Grief doesn’t simply occur when a funeral is involved. One variety is disenfranchised grief. This is typically grief that people choose not to express because it is not valued or is minimised by society. 

Complicated grief can refer to grieving the death of a parent you had a rocky relationship with. There is also a form of grief known as anticipatory grief. This could refer to grieving for someone with a terminal illness who hasn’t yet passed away. Lastly, there is compounded grief. 

Understanding Compounded Grief

Compounded grief essentially occurs when a person is reminded of all their losses after experiencing an event of grief. It differs from cumulative grief which refers to a person who is processing multiple losses within a short period of time such as a month or a year.

When dealing with compounded grief it’s important to understand that these losses may come from many different facets in life. These losses could include losing a pet, someone you love being diagnosed with cancer or even being retrenched from a job. 

One grief event often triggers a recurrence of other grief that has not properly been processed. As such, one grief event is compounded and individuals are forced to deal with a range of different and difficult emotions. 

Symptoms of Compounded Grief

Compounded grief can involve a variety of different symptoms. Some people will try to engage in avoidance techniques while others may look for numbing activities. It is also common for some people to lose their faith in the face of compounded grief.

Further symptoms of compounded grief include:

  • Shock and disbelief 
  • Anger
  • Sadness 
  • Guilt and regret 
  • Anxiety and emotional distress 
  • Yearning
  • A sense of helplessness
  • An inability to sleep at night 
  • Loss of appetite or an increased appetite 
  • Desire to isolate from family and friends 
  • Difficulty performing everyday tasks or work related functions 

It’s worthwhile noting that there are some overlapping symptoms between traditional and compounded grief. With this in mind, when normal grieving emotions become overwhelming, trigger depression or substance abuse, it’s typically because the individual is dealing with compounded grief. 

Learning How to Cope

While the symptoms of compounded grief might feel overwhelming, it is important to note that there are coping strategies that can be implemented. These coping techniques will help to return an individual to their normal state of being. 

One such coping strategy is to find room to grieve each loss individually. This might seem like a challenging task that will intensify feelings of grief, however, processing each loss helps the body to move through the different stages of grief. 

Another coping strategy centres around finding ways to express grief. This means looking for ways to work through the emotions. It could mean expelling anger through boxing sessions. It could also mean finding opportunities through meditation to be mindful. 

It’s also important to honour loved ones or things that you have lost along the way. One such example is to engage in a symbolic activity that will work to provide you with a sense of closure.  

The final important aspect of learning to cope is creating a daily routine. When grieving, it can be tempting to distance yourself from work, normal life and friends. By creating a daily routine, you are giving yourself the motivation to continue living and being a part of life. 

Dealing with Complicated Emotions

There are many ups and downs associated with life. If we are lucky, we have family, friends, pets and objects to love. The flipside of this love is having something or someone to say goodbye to.

This final farewell can often be associated with grief and complex emotions. There can even be times when these emotions vary from normal processes to something more such as compounded grief. The important thing to note is that there are strategies to help you cope.

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Jacqui Coombe

Jacqui Coombe is a blogger, marketer, wife, and now mum to a beautiful 1-year-old daughter, Lily, and cavoodle puppy, Max. Finding the right work/life balance is always a juggle, but Jacqui loves being able to combine her learnings and insights of parenting with her passion for blogging.

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