Grief and Bereavement
You are not alone - we are here to help you through the sadness of loss.
Grief and Bereavement
The way people respond to loss is very individual and personal. Grieving is a natural, normal and essential process of coming to terms with loss. The feelings can be intense, devastating even but they are a part of the healing process. How long these feelings last varies from a few days or weeks to a few years depending on the loss and how the person is reacting to it.
The sudden death of a loved one, whether due to an accident or illness or suicide, is inevitability difficult and painful for those left behind but the circumstances such as age, manner of death, whether it was anticipated etc, can have a significant effect on the nature of the grief experienced. Most people cope with bereavement but some get ‘stuck’ and find themselves unable to move on with their lives. Some may feel overwhelmed, end up depressed or even suicidal. Maybe there are unresolved issues or the grief will activate other underlying and unresolved emotional issues.
WHAT IS ‘NORMAL’ GRIEF?
Whilst there is really no such thing as ‘normal’ grief, the following are typical symptoms:
• Shock, numbness, disbelief, feelings of unreality
• Sadness and tearfulness
• Preoccupation with what has been lost
• Sleep and appetite issues
• Weight loss or gain
• Seeing or hearing the person lost
Opinions vary as to how long these symptoms to exist but between 1 – 2 years seems realistic for a major loss and can vary between cultures and the nature of the loss. Level of intensity usually starts to dissipate after about 6 months. Bereavement ranks as one of the highest stress factors and especially if combined with other resultant changes eg financial, having to relocate etc.
When the symptoms are very intense, prolonged and with no signs of diminishing, this is considered to be ‘abnormal’ grief and includes the following symptoms:
• Preoccupation with feelings of worthlessness
• A belief that they will never get over the loss
• Excessive guilt
• Marked slowing of thoughts and movement
• A prolonged period of not being able to function well
MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT GRIEF
• The pain will go away faster if you ignore it: For real healing, grief needs to be faced up to and dealt with
• It’s important to ‘be strong’ in the face of loss; Feeling sad, lonely, angry, afraid is normal. It is not necessary to put on a brave front to protect others. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.
• If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss: Crying is just one of the normal responses to loss and everyone feels and reacts to pain in their own way. Remember too that the first stage of grief is numbness, the body’s way of helping someone to get through the initial shock so the reality may not yet have ‘sunk in’.
• Grief should last about a year: Again, this is different from one person to the next.
• You cannot heal until you have gone through all the stages of grief: All grieving process models are just theory and not a rigid framework.
There is no such thing as typical loss or typical response to grief. Time is a great healer but even years after a death, we may experience grief symptoms if memories are triggered due to the situation eg wedding, Christmas, birthday anniversary.
Many people going through such trauma will focus their attention on how everyone else is coping. As therapists our role is to help our clients to start focusing on how they are feeling to enable them to heal and be able to start taking responsibility for themselves, making choices that are realistic and meaningful to themselves by accepting the reality of the loss, working through the pain, adjusting to life without the one they’ve lost and emotionally relocate them.
There is considerable emotional and physical pain associated with grief and this must be worked through. Tears, anger and anguish should not be stopped, since they are part of the human’s natural and instinctive behaviour pattern to discharge a sense of loss. There is also some evidence that the release of tears is physically therapeutic, affecting the body’s chemistry.
Many people have difficulty because they feel they will be in some way disloyal if they move on through life without the deceased. They need to be able to let go of the emotional ties, so that they can comfortably build new relationships.
Bear in mind that grief can also be over a lost relationship, a still-born child, a terminated pregnancy or a lost pet, a lost job, lost mobility, lost opportunity, lost status etc .
All these grief issues must be treated with the solemnity and respect that they deserve. It can be difficult when dealing with someone who is grieving, whether it is a client or a family member or friend.
Just knowing what to say is always a challenge but our therapists are all trained to help our clients find their way back into the light. Our therapeutic skills enable us to help our client to recognise the truth ie that it is perfectly natural and ok to move on, to form new relationships and to find peace and happiness in our lives.