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The loss of someone or something important is something we all experience in life. However, it is frequently unexpected and almost always painful. The pain and sadness you feel are normal parts of the grieving process and will change over time. You may be hearing this from people in your life or reading it on this page, thinking that the pain will never fade. Feeling this way is a normal part of the grieving process, and should be recognized as something you are going to experience for a while.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The way we grieve and the time it takes to begin to feel less pain is different for everyone. Your experience is unique to you. The way you grieve is influenced by your personality, your family or support network, how you tend to cope with adversity, your faith (if you are a religious or spiritual person), and the type of loss you experience.
Grief is defined as intense sorrow, primarily caused by someone’s death. It is a response to loss and is the way we process the loss of someone or something significant to us. The more critical the loss, the more painful the experience. Most people assume grief and loss only occur when someone loses a person in their life, but many types of loss can cause grief.
The term loss can have a broader meaning and doesn't just refer to bereavement. Feelings of loss can be overwhelming and overpowering, and the term can be applied to a variety of different contexts. The table below demonstrates how the different meanings and interpretations of loss.
This is a state of disbelief. It is difficult to accept that something terrible has happened. You may understand it, but you can’t accept it. Questions or responses you may be having may include themes like "Is this some kind of joke?", "Is this really happening?", or "This is just a nightmare and cannot be real."
The focus here is on avoiding the pain, carrying on with your normal activities as if nothing has happened. There may be themes of, "If I don’t accept it or acknowledge it, it isn’t real." This is okay at first, but it will eventually be necessary to accept the loss in order to move forward.
You may experience difficulty focusing or concentrating on simple tasks, which can be disruptive to work and study. You may be very forgetful or find yourself unable to make any decisions.
This can be expressed in many different forms to a variety of different people, including you. It may come out as rage, irritability, agitation, or frustration. It could come in the form of aggression or passive aggression. You may be mad at the loved one who died or at the circumstances surrounding the loss. You may be angry at others who seem to be able to go on with their lives as if nothing bad has happened.
You may find yourself envious of others (friends, work colleagues, family members) who are not going through similar things. If you have experienced the loss of a job, illness, or other losses of a significant nature, it is natural to experience unwanted feelings of resentment towards others.
It's not uncommon to experience intense feelings of guilt after a loss—feeling as though you are in some way responsible because you did not do something you should have, or because you didn't take preventative measures. It can be expressed as making statements that begin with "what if…" or "if only…". You may run many scenarios through your head of what you should or should not have done and how things could have been different.
Relief and guilt sometimes appear hand-in-hand. After a tragedy, you may feel relief that you are alive and safe, and that it wasn’t you who died or was injured. This relief can leave you feeling guilty. Feeling relief is natural and should not be a source of guilt.
You may find yourself in a state of panic or overwhelming fear. Increased feelings of anxiety may be due to feeling you have no control over what is happening, or that you spent all internal resources on trying to cope and you have nothing left to deal with anything else. You might feel vulnerable and insecure, waiting for the next disaster. You may worry excessively about being able to go on with your life in light of what has happened.
Hurt and pain are normal and healthy emotions to experience after losing someone or something significant. You may have an intense longing to see the person again or get them back. You may long for a return to a relationship or a job that was lost.
Feelings of emptiness, aloneness, isolation, or abandonment can be intense. You may believe no one can understand what you are going through or you cannot relate to anyone else.
You may experience less desire to spend time with others or participate in the activities you used to enjoy. You may stop answering the phone and take steps away from friends and family. This is usually temporary, and common to experience following a significant loss.
There is a broad range of emotions and reactions that people experience when dealing with loss and grief. The important thing is to identify the ones that are real to you and give yourself permission to feel this way. Don’t be surprised if you recognize all of them in yourself.
If you find yourself struggling with the impact of loss and you'd like to talk to someone, consider seeking support through Homewood Health's grief and loss coaching service.