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Disenfranchised grief: What it is and ways to cope

Grief is something that we’ve all most likely experienced in our lives, something that can cause real heartache and be a really tough journey to have to pull through. When we lose someone we love, we begin to mourn and that is what happens, with the grief cycle. No matter what, kind of loss you’ve experienced, your grief is valid and the way you’re feeling towards it matters. Don’t ever feel like you’re in the wrong for griefing in a certain way because everyone is different. Those that suffer from disenfranchised grief may have a bit more of a prolonged and more intense grieving process. It comes from feeling like there’s a lack of acknowledgement there and they feel they’re completely alone in their grieving process. 

What is Disenfranchised grief?

This is a particular type of grief that resembles what can be known as something that is hidden or a particular type of sorrow. It’s a type of grief that doesn’t really get recognised by society, it’s quite unvalidated within the ways of social norms. Meaning that it is often not understood by others, which may result in it being harder to push through. 

Particular losses that may be seen as something that isn’t as significant as these can be: 

  • Loss of a particular possession
  • Loss of safety
  • Loss of mobility
  • Loss of a home
  • Dementia
  • Being denied for adoption
  • Pregnancy loss
  • The death of a pet
  • Loss of a job

Common symptoms of Disenfranchised grief

There are a fair few symptoms when it comes to discussing the topic of disenfranchised grief, some are very similar to the way you grieve in itself. Most of the time the individual will feel an intense feeling of sadness, despair and loneliness. They may start to feel anger, fear or guilt or feeling quite numb or just completely nothing at all. Having a lot of trouble concentrating, remembering things or making decisions. Changes to your sleep patterns, appetite, a sense of shock or disbelief. It can be hard to maintain a relationship or have a lot of difficulty connecting with others. Having that intense feeling of isolation, perhaps having a lack of closure, feeling a massive amount of guilt or shame. 

Stages of grief

There are five common stages of grief, they don’t always have to go in order, sometimes you might only experience a few of them. Denial: this is after the death or whatever grief you’re experiencing, you may experience some kind of denial about the situation. Anger: you may find that you’re feeling a lot more angrier than normal and that your emotions are a lot more heightened. Bargaining: when you move past the denial and anger stage, you may find yourself creating a lot of ‘what if’ moments. Depression: this is commonly known as the ‘quiet’ stage of the grieving process. Feeling very sad and confused and often isolated. Acceptance: this is when you get to the stage where you accept what has occurred and try to understand it more.

Getting help

Something that is so important when it comes to dealing with grief, or anything mentally is that you must get help if it gets too overwhelming. Make sure you speak about it and realise you’re in no way on your own even if you think you’re. It can be a very overwhelming and frightening process to have to go through and can feel very isolating. By dealing with the grief overall it can in turn lead to other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or trauma. It’s vital that if you’re concerned about your mental health that you reach out and try to get some professional help, if you feel talking to those around you is not helping in anyway. They will then be able to address your concerns and come up with ways in which they can help you deal with it. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a common type of therapy used in relation to grief, known as (CBT) these sessions will try to help identify the negative thought patterns that are affecting how you’re behaving. They might ask you to go into more detail about your grief and what you’re experiencing so they can help you come up with healthier coping mechanisms to ensure you can manage it better. Another type of therapy for grief is acceptance and commitment therapy, which is another method used to help those experiencing grief or loss. Helps to try and let you accept your negative emotions, values, committed action, cognitive defusion, self as context, and contact with the present moment. 

Ways to cope

To be able to acknowledge your own grief, is really powerful in itself, because it is often very hard to do. Even if you feel no one else is acknowledging your grief, you can try to yourself. It can then help you to understand your response to your grief and how you validate your feelings. Give yourself permission to be able to feel, grief is never something that is an easy and quick process, it takes time to be able to push through. This particular type of grief can bring up intense emotions and that can be in relation to your loss or the experience you’ve been through. You might feel numb, useless, sad, angry, guilty and so much more, which is why you need to allow yourself to feel like that, even though it’s hard. 

Journaling can be another great way, it provides a safe space for you to be able to talk about how you’re feeling and to be able to express that by writing it down. Find a place where you can sit comfortably and set a timer for fifteen minutes or so and just write until you’re done. Another great way is to just, in general, take care of your body and help yourself to feel better, ensure you’re getting enough rest, eating well and drinking enough water. Go out for a walk, make sure you’re moving your body as much as you can. Try and find ways to distract your mind, do something that makes you smile or cheers you up. Make sure you reach out for help, this is such an important step to ensure you can cope with your grief, there is always someone who will listen and support you.    

Call Sudden on 0800 2600 400

Call Samaritans on 116 123

Words: Karley Myall 

Complicated grief: What it is and ways to cope

Complicated grief is a type of grieving process one that seems to last a lot longer than other types of grief. Going through the process of grieving is a really distressing time for anyone and often you can feel quite alone. It’s not easy and it’s one of those things that you really have to have a lot of strength to pull through, but it is doable if you make sure that you take care of yourself and also reach out for help, don’t ever suffer alone. It’s so hard to go through by yourself and you shouldn’t have to feel like you have to. There is always someone who is willing to listen. It’s important to not blame yourself and constantly be negative about yourself because of what has happened. 

What is complicated grief?

Grief is one of the hardest processes to have to go through, losing a loved one or grieving for something is never easy. It’s one of the most distressing things to have to go through, but sadly, one of the most common experiences many people face. When people experience any kind of bereavement or grief, they often have a period where they will feel a lot of sorrow and perhaps guilt, numbness and even anger. It’s possible to accept the loss at hand and be able to move forward, but it’s certainly not an easy process. Which is why, it’s important that if you’re struggling you definitely reach out and speak to someone, or get help from a professional. 

But for some people, the actual feelings of loss can stick around for a long time and feel like they never improve. This is what is known as complicated grief, which can also be known as persistent complex bereavement disorder. The emotions that the person faces become very painful and are very long-lasting. When someone is grieving, they can go through many different paths of how they choose to accept what has happened. They could either accept the reality of the loss, allow themselves to experience the pain or try to adjust to a new reality. It can also be known as abnormal grief, chronic grief, or exaggerated grief. 

Causes

There is no known cause for complicated grief, but there are things that can be reasons as to why complicated grief can occur. It can be people who experience an unexpected or shocking death of a loved one, people with a history of substance abuse, people with a history of mental disorders, people who experience more than one death in a short period of time, or not being able to be there when the loss occurred.

Symptoms of complicated grief

After the first few months after a loss, many symptoms can appear for normal grief and most of the time they’re pretty much the same as complicated grief. However, whilst normal grief is something that gradually fades over time, those who suffer from complicated grief get stuck with it for a lot longer. It’s like an ongoing, more heightened state of grief that keeps you from accepting it and being able to heal. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Problems accepting what has happened
  • Numbness or detachment
  • Bitterness about the loss 
  • Feeling that life doesn’t have any meaning or purpose
  • Lack of trust in others
  • A lot of intense sorrow and pain
  • Inability to enjoy your life 

Other signs include: 

  • Isolating from others and withdrawing from social activities
  • Feeling like life isn’t worth living without them
  • Believe that you did something wrong 
  • Feeling you could have prevented it 
  • Depression, sadness, guilt 
  • Having trouble carrying out normal activities

With complicated grief, it can be something that can affect you massively physically, mentally and socially. It can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and a lot of anxiety often including PTSD. A lot of trouble with sleep, and increased physical illness, which could include heart disease, and high blood pressure. Then there can be complications with alcohol, nicotine and substance misuse. 

Getting help

Grieving is different from person to person, it can be very different in the way they deal with things. But, it can also be hard to actually understand when normal grief turns into complicated grief. It can often be diagnosed when months, or perhaps years have passed and you’re still feeling these strong feelings towards the loss. Quite often, psychotherapy is something that is used to treat complicated grief, it’s quite similar to the kind of treatment for depression and PTSD in terms of psychotherapy. During therapy, you will learn about the complicated grief you’re experiencing and how exactly it can be treated. Being able to learn the types of grief, the complications, the signs and ways to actually be able to adjust to the loss. Finding coping skills and ways to reduce the feelings of blame or guilt. 

Common signs professionals might pick up on:

  • The loss occurred at least 6 months ago
  • Symptoms cause significant impairment in a person’s life
  • Having trouble continuing with their regular routines
  • Avoiding places or activities that remind them of the person they lost 
  • Reckless, impulsive, and potentially disturbing behaviour

Ways to cope

Of course, it’s important to get professional treatment for complicated grief, there are some things that can help ease the feelings slightly. One of the most important things is to take care of yourself, even though this can be really difficult. Getting enough rest, eating healthy foods and taking the time to relax. Staying connected with your emotions, trying to get outside for a walk, exercising regularly. Physical activity in itself can help relieve stress, depression and anxiety. Even though it might be very difficult to find the motivation to do this, it’s very important that you try too. If you do seek therapy, then something that will be very beneficial for you, is to attend the appointments as scheduled and be able to practise skills that you learn in therapy in your own life, stick to your plan. 

Another great way to cope is learning to practise stress management, and learning ways to better manage stress, stress in itself can lead to depression if it’s kept unmanaged. Great ways to do this are to be active, take control of your own feelings, connect with people, have some of your time,  challenge yourself, and avoid unhealthy habits. Talk to those around you that you trust, far too many times, people who experience grief will go through it alone because they feel that no one around them really understands what they’re going through. But, this isn’t always the case, they could be going through the same thing and you could be a great support system for eachother. 

Call Cruse Bereavement Care on 0808 808 1677
Contact Better Help on contact@betterhelp.com
Words: Karley Myall

Self-Harm: What it entails and ways to cope

Self-harm is something that can be a very difficult time for any individual and can often cause a lot of trauma. It can stem from going through a lot and perhaps feeling very overwhelmed or perhaps angry and taking it out on yourself. It’s very important that if you or someone you know might be going through self-harm, that you reach out for help because it can be something that can end up being very serious. It’s something that with professional help can get better as well as the individual taking care of themselves and finding ways to distract themselves from their own mind.

What is self-harm?

Self-harm is something that can be very traumatic to an individual and even those around them. It’s often when an individual intends to hurt themselves as a way to cope with difficult feelings. This can be to do with painful memories or any situations that may feel extremely tough to get through and certain traumatic experiences. It can also be to do with expressing something that is hard to put into words, having a really massive change in physical and emotional pain, a way to escape traumatic memories, stop making them feel numb or disconnected, express any sucidal feelings, having this sense of control.

It’s one of those situations that occur, when the individual is at the lowest point in their life and they’re really struggling to push on through and deal with the emotions that come with it. After self-harming it may feel like this little bit of some kind of relief, but in reality it certainly doesn’t help with the causes of how you’re feeling and the long-term effects can be very distressing.

Signs of self-harm

⦁ Pain or discomfort
⦁ Physical marks
⦁ Scarring
⦁ Feelings of isolation
⦁ Feeling scared
⦁ Feelings of weakness or shame
⦁ Feeling sick
⦁ Using drugs or alcohol to cope with their problems
⦁ Not eating, over eating, or forcing themselves to throw up
⦁ Getting into fights
⦁ Risky sexual behaviour

Possible causes

Self-harm is something that often can have many possible causes as to why they might feel the need to do it. There are quite a few reasons why they might self-harm, it is usually a sign of something very stressful or upsetting and something that can be extremely difficult to deal with. It could be something like suffering abuse, experiencing a traumatic incident, bullying, divorce or family problems, loneliness, feelings of guilt or being unloved, a sudden change in life, exam stress, low self-esteem, money worries, homophobia, an illness or an increase in stress.

There are many times in our lives that can leave us feeling very overwhelmed and hurt. Rather than expressing those feelings to others and getting help. The individual will then start putting pain and anger into ourselves. It can stem from possibly feeling like a failure and like you can’t do anything right, making you feel like you’re not living up to this ‘perfect’ expectation. So, the individual may feel the need to punish themselves because they don’t feel like they’re good enough.

Getting help

It’s so important to understand the severity of just how harmful self-harm can be, professional support is such a key step to helping the recovery and can make a massive difference. It’s ok to be able to ask for help, it’s not a weakness in any way, it takes a lot of strength to admit you need help and it’s a very important part of your recovery journey. Talking to your GP, to be able to see what treatments are available, prescribe certain medications for anxiety or depression or refer to a mental health team. Other forms of treatment could include: CBT, which stands for cognitive behaviour therapy, which has proven very successful for those that struggle with self-harm. There are often a lot of support groups that have regular meetings, there are most likely some quite local ones or some you might have to travel to, but they can work very well for some.

Family and friends

This can be such a tough situation to go through, but if you notice someone you care about could possibly be self-harming, then it’s important to speak about it but be cautious about their feelings and privacy. You might feel shocked, angry, helpless or sometimes even responsible, it’s important that you don’t panic and overreact and understand what self-harm actually is and what could possibly be causing them to feel the need to do it.

Do’s:

⦁ Let them know you’re there for them
⦁ Remind them of their positive qualities
⦁ Try to have honest communication
⦁ Try to have empathy and understanding
⦁ Relate to them as a person, not just their self-harm
⦁ Offer to help them find support, but don’t force them

Dont’s:

⦁ Try to force change
⦁ Label self-harm as ‘attention seeking’
⦁ Put them down
⦁ Blame them
⦁ Communicating in a way that may make it seem like you’re taking control away from them
⦁ Ignoring what they’re doing completely

It’s also really important that you take care of yourself too, it can be a very hard time for not only the individual but the people around them.

Ways to cope

Of course, whilst professional help is the most important, there are a few ways in which you can begin to help yourself cope and manage these feelings for a little while. Listening to music, going for a run, brisk walk, or any form of exercise, talk to a friend, keep yourself busy, carry safe things in your pockets (pebbles, crystals), tearing up newspapers, try aromatherapy oils such as lavender oil, take a cold shower, bite into something which is strongly flavoured (lemons, garlic, peppers), use an elastic band around your wrist and flick it if you feel like self-harming, journal and so much more.

There are also a lot of small ways you can help boost your mood just a little, perhaps getting out in the sun, perhaps cutting down on social media- only follow accounts that make you feel positive, making sure to get enough sleep and that you’re drinking plenty of water, take a time out when everything gets a little too much, jot down three things you’re grateful for each day, be there for yourself and be kind to yourself.

If you feel the need to self-harm, then it might be best to find new ways that you feel distract you in a good way and can put your mind somewhere else. This could be perhaps delving into a new hobby, focusing on your breathing, meeting up with a friend, having a routine, holding an ice cube, hitting a pillow or a great one could be making a self-soothe box.

Self-soothe box

A self-soothe box is something you can make that contains things that really ground you, then certain things that make you feel more relaxed and can often reduce symptoms of panic, emotional distress or low mood. Perhaps, decorating the box will help you feel more creative, often they include items that stimulate the five senses being vision, smell, sound, taste and touch. Vision: this could be including photos, postcards, anything that lets you relive those positive memories, or it could be a favourite teddy. It could also be something like a colouring book, pens or paints. Smell: essential oils, candle, perfume. Sound: This could perhaps be a particular style of music or even a podcast. Taste: Mints, chocolate, sour sweets, anything that you really enjoy. Herbal teas can also help you to relax as well as a bottle of water. Touch: Can be things like putty or stress balls to help you feel more relaxed.

5 Not Obvious Signs of Self Harm

Call Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

Text ‘’SHOUT’’ to 85258 to contact Shout Crisis Text Line or text ‘’YM’’ if you’re under 19

Call Mind on 0300 123 3393 or text 86493

Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58

Words: Karley Myall