Bereavement and grief are things that affect every single one of us at some point in our lives. Be it friend, family member or cherished pet, bereavement can be described as the time we take to adjust to the loss of someone dear to us. Grief, or a profound sense of loss, can also occur outside of death in a multitude of life situations including:
Loss of a job
Loss of health/serious illness
Loss of financial stability
A miscarriage or termination
Loss of a friendship
A loved one’s serious illness
Loss of security after a trauma
Selling the family home
Any of these can lead to a loss of sense of self or identity which can be very painful and distressing.
The reactions and time taken to mourn differ widely from person to person. Some people turn anger in towards themselves and the world. Some withdraw into themselves while others become numb and stop reacting to what goes on around them altogether. At times when grief is prolonged it can turn into something of serious concern, such as deep depression.
Many people refer to the bereavement period as “recovery time”, which is a bit of a misnomer. Recovery implies that the mourning person will eventually return to being the way they were before the loss. In fact loss, like every event that takes place in our lives, reshapes us, bringing change and growth. Bereavement and grief are about dealing with the loss, adjusting and doing the best to move on with and forward in life. We can never go back to being exactly the way we were before, even if we wish we could.
The bereavement period is often a very confusing time, bringing with it a lot of powerful and mixed emotions. These feelings can be compared to waves – coming and going, growing and fading over time. Generally people experiencing loss go through four stages, although not necessarily in the following order:
• Accepting that the loss is real
• Experiencing the pain that grief brings with it
• Trying to adjust to a new life in which the deceased person or thing is no longer part of
• Moving on – investing emotional energy into something/s besides grief
The process of going through all these phases can be difficult and painful. Sometimes a person can become trapped in one of the stages for a long time and begin to believe that there’s no way out of it. It can happen that grief is so debilitating that it leads to negative behaviour such as:
• Neglecting oneself – losing all interest in personal hygiene and appearance; people who used to be well put together and look smart, suddenly overlook even brushing their teeth.
• Losing appetite, not eating properly. As a direct consequence, the person’s health begins to deteriorate, adding more challenges to their life.
• Not being able to perform any tasks. Even the simplest things seem impossible. The person stops meeting friends, talking on the phone, neglects their spouse, children or pets. Some go as far as leaving the job they used to love and giving up hobbies, preferring to stay in bed or sit on the couch for extended periods.
• The feeling that life without the lost person or thing is not worth living. Believing life will never get any better, completely isolating themselves from others, suicidal thoughts.
Unless such feelings and behaviours continue for a very long time, they are normal and not unhealthy. If, at any point, a person feels they aren’t coping very well with grief, it may be time to seek professional help. A grief counsellor can help make this painful time more manageable, find balance and hope again and therefore move on to the next stage. There are some questions you can ask about the feelings and behaviour of the grieving person in order to better assess the situation and see if professional help is necessary:
• Is the person suddenly drinking much more than before, using illegal substances or gambling?
• Is the person acting more impulsively?
• Is the person having any suicidal thoughts?
• Is he or she beginning to act violently, either verbally or physically?
Bereavement counselling is a form of therapy that helps people cope more easily and capably with the death of a loved one or loss of something important to them. It aims to bring the person in need to the point where they feel “normal” again about themselves and life in general; a point where they can move forward and invest their energy into positive actions for further growth. Specifically, bereavement counselling can:
• Help the person in need acknowledge the loss; acknowledging fully that the loved one or thing has gone and will never be part of their lives other than in memory.
• Help the grieving person identify and express their feelings, be they guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, fear, sorrow or anything else.
• Work with the person on reshaping a life without the deceased – admitting and committing to the fact that no matter how loved that person was, life has to go on in absence as there are other people who deserve attention and love, other things in which time and energy are worth investing.
• Identify and explore areas that could prevent the person from moving on.
• Offer support in dealing with emotional conflicts that may arise during the grieving process.
• Offer support in adjusting to the new sense of self.
• Address suicidal thoughts if they are present.
Grief counselling can be carried out in individual therapy sessions or group therapy, in person, on the phone, through video calling, email or live chat. Regardless of the form it takes, therapy helps the grieving person to reach a point where life feels normal again, no matter how long that may take.
P-Therapy has a number of specialist grief counsellors and all of our therapists have worked with people experiencing bereavement and loss. To find out more or book a consultation click here, call 020 7607 1289 or email [email protected]
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