Dealing with grief, loss and bereavement
Bereavement is a very personal experience, and we all respond differently to the loss of someone who is important to us. Whatever you are feeling is valid – it’s your way of coping, and therefore is right for you.
There is no ‘right time’ to talk to a counsellor – I’ve worked with people within the first few months of their loss, and others after a year or longer. I frequently hear concerns about what other people think or say, for example a sense that there are expectations that you should be ‘over’ your loss by some point in time. In my experience, grief can be raw and deeply felt and it can be isolating and lonely if these feelings are dismissed by other people.
Stages of grief
If you are dealing with loss, you may recognise some of the following feelings, whether in this order or in a random jumble that is unique to you:
Shock, denial and disbelief
Even when the death was expected there can be a sense of disbelief that it has happened, that the person you loved is no longer around. It is an understandable way of coping, to allow time to adjust to the new reality.
Because you don’t want to accept that your loved one has gone, or because you feel a sense of injustice at their death. Sometimes anger can be felt towards yourself for still being alive without them.
Frequently intense and all-consuming pain that leaves you sobbing and distraught. This can appear unexpectedly, perhaps when you hear a song that reminds you of the person you’ve lost.
A deep sadness that lingers, feeling numb and lethargic and finding it difficult to function or to carry out routine tasks. A common phrase I hear is ‘what’s the point?’ which suggests there may be a loss of meaning in life without the loved one to share it with.
Counselling can help with grief by providing a place to share your experience, to someone who wants to hear about your feelings and will give you the time to grieve without judgement. There may be tears, there may be lots of tears – that is understandable and completely OK.
Talking to someone is also an opportunity to find a way to cope and to share stories about the person you’ve lost and what they meant to you. It can be comforting to give space to their memory and with a counsellor you can do this in a way that feels right to you.