Bereavement and Grief
When a loved one dies we may experience a range of strong and painful feelings. We may feel lonely, isolated, or feel that nobody else can understand what we are going through. It may be difficult to share these feelings with people close to us, whether family members or friends. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone outside the situation, who will listen without judging or giving advice.
Bereavement and Grief
Whilst there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain, so that in time you are able to move on.
Grieving is part of the normal process of coping with loss, and can include mental, physical, social or emotional reactions. It is normal to have feelings such as anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness and despair. You may also experience sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems or illness. There is no set duration for the bereavement process - how long it lasts depends on many factors, such as how close you were to the person who died, or whether their death was expected or sudden.
One of the common myths is that there are standard stages or responses that everyone has following a loss. In 1969, it was psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who introduced what became known as "The five stages of grief" - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Sometimes though, it helps to know that grief is experienced uniquely and cannot always be categorised into so called "normal stages".
Everyone's experience with grief is different - so it's important to know that your reaction is natural.
How can counselling help people to find closure?
- Grief can be a more straightforward experience if the relationship with the person who died was okay. If this is not the case, then some of the more complicated emotions can be worked through in therapy, and counselling can draw on a number of ways to help this process. For example, you might talk to your counsellor and decide you want to write to the person who has died, to express your thoughts and feelings.
- Another way of communicating is to use something called the "two chair" approach, where your counsellor will ask you to talk to the person as though they are in the room. Although to many people this may sound strange, when this is sensitively done at the right time it can provide an emotionally cathartic healing experience. Your counsellor will work with you to find ways for you to cope outside of the sessions too.
- Death and dying can offer the opportunity to look afresh at life – when the time is right. Some people find that their priorities change, and that some things which previously held a lot of importance no longer do. Animals are a great source of comfort to some people. Even though animals do not speak they are often profoundly tuned in to emotions on a body level and will use touch and proximity to bring comfort.
- Relationships with others can deepen, and some find that they develop a more active spiritual life or deeper connection to nature. The important thing is to work with your counsellor to explore the ways that work for you.