Grief and Loss - Understanding Grief and the Mourning process
Although grief is one of the most common emotions we have to bear, we are not taught how to prepare for the death of someone close to us. It is a cycle of loss and mourning which often includes denial, fear and loneliness.
Grieving doesn't actually follow a neat progression of steps; it is much more intricate than that. Grief is a personal thing, it can be complicated, a prolonged and intensely traumatising experience that can result in significant emotional distress. There can be a lot of regression or backtracking to an earlier time. There is no easy way around it, it's a natural response to the loss of someone special or something we value. There will be big and small adjustments which have to be made in your life. You will change. your routine will change, your moods will change. All of this is called 'grief'.
It is not well understood in our society, some people try to deny it, postpone it or avoid it. It is an excruciatingly painful aspect of life, yet grief is important and leads to emotional healing. Most people expect to be very upset or distressed when a loved one has passed away. What can take us by surprise is how intense the emotions can be, how they can change very quickly and how long they last. People around you may seem to think you should be ‘back to normal’ after a few weeks or months. You may even appear to be your usual self on the outside, but on the inside, you’re not even sure what normal is anymore.
Common reactions to Grief and Bereavement
- Shock - I can’t believe it.
- Numbness - I'm not feeling anything.
- Guilt - If only ...
- Frustration - Why don’t people understand me? Why did this have to happen?
- Panic - How will I cope?
- Depression - I don’t care anymore, I want to end it all.
- Fear - What if I can’t cope?
- Low Energy - I'm too tired.
- Confusion - I can’t think straight.
- Rejection - How could you leave me?
- Emptiness - I feel like something is always missing.
- Pain - Physical and mental pain can feel completely overwhelming and very frightening.
- Replaying - You can't stop thinking about the events leading up to the death.
- Visions - Thinking you're hearing or seeing someone who has died.
- Mood swings - One minute you're angry and the next minute you can't stop crying.
Common Myths about the Grieving Process:
Myth: I have to “be strong” after a loss.
You may experience different feelings, you may even cry, this is not a sign of weakness. It's a normal reaction to grief for some people. Showing your true feelings can only help you and those around you. Putting a brave front when you are mourning is not something you have to do.
Myth: Grieving should last for 6 months.
There is no time limit on grieving. It is different for everyone, we move through the states in a unique way.
Myth: If I ignore my pain it will go away.
Ignoring your pain can cause problems later on down the line. While it may not be easy, facing your grief as it occurs is a healthy approach.
Myth: If you don’t cry, it means you never cared.
Not everyone shows sadness in the same way. Crying is a common response but it’s not the only one.
Myth: Carrying on with life means forgetting about the loved one.
Carrying on means you’ve accepted your loss, that does not mean you have forgotten the person that you have lost. The memories can still stay alive. You may never stop missing your loved one, you may have just found a way to cope and overcome the grief.
The Grieving Process - What are the Stages of Grief?
1. Accept the reality of your loss
2. Work through the pain and grief
3. Adjust to the world without your loved one
4. Find a way to maintain a connection to the person you have lost while embarking on a new life.
- How we mourn
- How we cope with stress
- How we communicate emotions
- The relationship we had with the person
- The support we have around us
- Personal issues which may be brought to the surface at this time.
There may be instances that trigger Grief
Birthdays, Christmas, Anniversaries or milestones can bring back memories. Try to prepare yourself for this as they can be major triggers. It can be particularly hard during the first year as it's all so new, you may not know what to expect as you have not experienced these dates without your loved one.
How do I support someone who is Grieving?
- Resist giving advice.
- Help in practical ways.
- Do not put a time limit on grief.
- Remember anniversaries, birthdays etc.
- Most importantly, listen to them.
Ways to help resolve your own grief:
- Acknowledge and accept both positive and negative feelings.
- Allow plenty of time to experience thoughts and feelings.
- Confide in a trusted person.
- Express feelings openly or write journal entries.
- Find bereavement groups in which there are other people who have had similar losses.
- Remember that crying can provide a release.
- Join a support group or forum
- Seek professional help if feelings are overwhelming.
People who are grieving may never stop missing a loved one but the pain may eventually lessen. The most important aspect of grieving is learning to cope with the loss. You may need support with that, as it is one of the most trying times - if not the most of our lives.
Grief and Loss Counselling - How can it help me?
Some people find the comfort of loved ones very helpful after a bereavement, while others find this hard and may withdraw from social contact, unable to face the world. You may feel like this, but grieving is difficult enough without having to do it all on your own.
We know that no one can understand exactly what your loss feels like to you, but we do understand that at times it may be easier to talk to someone outside of your friends and family about the impact of the bereavement. Offloading can be very beneficial...It is better out than in!
Counselling can help you during the mourning process by allowing you to move through the stages of grief in a relationship that is supportive and confidential. Your Counsellor will assist you to accept the loss and to talk about it. You will be encouraged to identify and express any feelings of anger, guilt, sadness, helplessness and anxiety.
Grief and Loss Counselling can help you to learn to live without the deceased; it will encourage you to make decisions alone. This can feel very scary at first, support is very reassuring at this time. Your Counsellor will aid you in identifying ways of coping with the bereavement, you may soon realise that what you're experiencing is normal and a common response to grief.
Therapy can be the light in the dark. It gives you an opportunity to be heard. A time to talk, cry, shout, vent, share memories or just think aloud. It can guide you to look at your problems in a different way and bring relief by being able to communicate with a neutral party, without being interrupted. It can help you to sort out some of the confusion as a result of a painful loss. Learn about What to do after a person Dies - Practical matters.
Whether you have lost someone due to an illness, old age, murder, an accident, miscarriage, stillbirth or suicide, having support and guidance in adapting to the changes can help. Your thoughts, your hopes, your beliefs and your future could make the greatest improvement. Get in touch with us and request your free Ebook about Grief and Loss, or select one. We also offer Grief Counselling and Bereavement Therapy. Our caring and compassionate Counsellors provide sessions via Email, Instant Messenger, Skype and Telephone. We look forward to supporting you.