Grief & Loss CounsellingThe most common experiences of loss are those in which a relationship with a loved one or a close friend comes to an end. This end may take the form of a relationship breakdown or bereavement, or of an illness so debilitating that it changes the nature of the relationship. (The families of Alzheimers sufferers sometimes feel the ‘absence’ of a loved one as keenly as if they had died.). It’s common for these experiences to be accompanied by strong feelings of grief but it isn’t invariable: there is no typical response to loss.
It can be especially difficult when grief and loss come in a form that others find hard to comprehend. It’s possible to grieve deeply for the loss of a pet. Losing one’s job can give rise to feelings not unlike those of bereavement. Couples who fail to conceive may feel a similar sense of loss. Grieving is complicated in these circumstances because the people around you can fail to grasp the intensity of the feelings involved.
Loss may also be complicated if the nature of the loss touches on social taboos or feelings of shame. Some may feel inhibited about confiding in friends and colleagues if they have lost a loved one through suicide or through a drug overdose. If a woman has found it necessary to terminate a pregnancy she may be overwhelmed by contradictory feelings yet find herself unable to confide them even to her closest friends.
Reactions to griefWhen experiencing grief, it is normal to:
- Feel like you are "going mad"
- Have problems with concentration
- Feel sad or depressed
- Be irritable or angry (at the deceased, oneself, others)
- Feel frustrated or misunderstood
- Experience anxiety, nervousness, or fearfulness
- Feel like you want to "run away”
- Experience guilt and remorse
- Be ambivalent
- Feel numb
- Lack energy and enthusiasm
Grief as a Process of HealingThere is no single process for dealing with grief. At one point it was widely believed that there were five identifiable stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It was thought that these were experienced in sequence. Current thinking suggests that this model may be too rigid and that it’s possible to omit or to repeat stages, or to move back and forth between them.
Grief is often experienced in cycles or waves. In time these waves may become less frequent and diminish in power. However, there may be times of the year - holidays, significant anniversaries – when you feel especially vulnerable. It helps to be patient with the grieving process and not to deny or to repress the feelings of loss. These feelings need to be experienced. What matters is to find a safe context in which to experience them.