As a therapist, the topic of grief and loss is discussed on countless occasions. Sadly, as COVID-19 continues to rage around the world, grief and loss are being experienced and observed much more than normal.
Grief is not limited to feelings of sadness. It can also comprise anger, guilt, and even regret. This mix of feelings can often be confusing and occur in varying degrees of strength and combinations. For example, if a loved one dies of cancer, it is possible to feel sad but at the same time feel relief they are no longer suffering.
It is important when we talk about grief to note that loss is not limited to the death of a loved one. People will often have to work through grief over the loss of a career, a pet, a relationship, as well as internal loss such as the loss of dreams and desires and aspects of oneself.
Processing grief and loss can be complicated for many us and there is no single right way. Some people find talking to others and expressing their feelings and thoughts in company to be very helpful and comforting. For others, they may choose to be alone with their feelings and use writing, drawing or walking to process how they are feeling. Everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time but the important this to allow yourself to process the grief you are experiencing.
The Process of Grief
Grief is a healthy and necessary process. By allowing your thoughts and feelings to surface you will learn to process the loss you have experienced. Sometimes, it can seem like you will be lost in these feelings of sadness, guilt and despair forever so it can feel very overwhelming. By processing the grief, rather than suppressing it, these feelings will subside over time. Allowing yourself the opportunity to express your feelings is important. Whoever or whatever you have lost may have been very important to you.
Dealing with grief is hard enough, but it can often be made harder if you have what is known as disenfranchised grief. This can occur in several situations when society or those around you devalue the loss you are suffering from. For example, it often happens in relation to a pet death, or when the loss is more ambiguous such as when grieving for a person with dementia. Having your grief disenfranchised by society will make processing your grief even harder.
Supporting the Grieving
What can you do to help yourself or support someone experiencing grief and loss?
- • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether the help comes from family, friends, a counsellor or a support group. Help can be practical (support with childcare, meal preparation, shopping, etc.) as well as emotional (support, affirmation, etc.). Look after yourself. Try to eat, sleep and exercise. Many people feel so tired when experiencing grief so allow yourself the chance to be looked after.
- • Manage your stress- When someone we love is ill or dies, often there is extra responsibility you have to deal with. Remember you cannot fix everything and will need to prioritise your workload and commitments. Consider asking friends or family to help with the load.
- • Do things you really enjoy. Go for a walk, continue with a hobby, even if you really feel like you don’t want to.
- • Keep being patient. It’s especially hard when there is a common loss to expect other people to recover at the same speed as you. Grief is an intensely personal and unique thing, and you can’t expect your spouse / sibling / child to keep in-step with you on your journey.
Adjusting to a new reality can be one of the hardest challenges people have to face. Counselling can provide you as an individual with a space to explore and express your thoughts and feelings surrounding grief and loss safely, without judgement. It can also be very helpful for families to establish their new social dynamic in a caring and careful manner.
Grief will impact us all differently, but support is available for anyone. No loss is too big or too small, too recent or too far away.
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