Loss, Grief & Bereavement

I trained in Bereavement and Grief counselling at the Sam Beare Hospice in Weybridge. Bereavement Loss and Grief touches all of us through life and it goes beyond the initial stages where there are friends and family to support you.

The loss seems to depend after the funeral - the business during the time leading up to the funeral distracts us from our loss. Friends and family who are initially supportive slowly start to think that you will be ok and it becomes difficult to continue to talk about your loss - they start saying things like - you should be over it by now - but you know you are not.

The emotional pain of losing someone dear is quantifiable by the amount you loved them and moving on from this is extremely difficult. Feelings can seem overwhelming and we try to stop them in any which way we can in case they swallow us up entirely.

Counselling can be very supportive during this time, having someone to share your feelings with and to continue to mourn your loss is important so that you can process your feelings and thoughts. Learning techniques to calm yourself down when you feel overwhelmed is very useful and I teach my clients breathing techniques which helps to calm. Feelings are our way of expressing our emotions and when we grieve we have a lot of emotions. When we try to avoid our emotions we often get stuck and knowing someone is there to support helps to get through this difficult time.

Many people are surprised at the intensity of their feelings and also the type of unwanted feelings they experience. I often tell my clients there are no right or wrongs about feelings as they are feelings they are not facts.

There are five stages of grief - Anyone who has been through grief will recognise the stages. My own experiences help me to relate with my clients and help them to understand that their feelings are normal.

Denial - this is the first stage of grief, it helps us to survive initially. It is a state of a shock - you may forget what has happened and try to get on with life as per normal. It is natures way of helping us to cope to pace ourselves and let the reality of the situation sink in. As you start to accept the reality of your loss you are beginning to accept and are therefore starting the healing process

Anger - most people are shocked that they feel anger. This can be directed in many ways - sometimes blaming others or at times blaming yourself . Anger is a necessary part of grieving and is a necessary part of the healing process. Let yourself feel it - talk it through with your therapist as it will help to dissipate it. Why shouldn’t you feel angry? Someone of great importance to you has been taken away? You should feel angry - you may be angry at God too. Your anger is a way of masking your pain - it is natural to feel deserted and abandoned by your loss. You may be angry at people who couldn’t save your loved one - doctors nurses ambulance men, you maybe angry that are not showing their support or didn’t attend the funeral. You maybe angry with yourself for not doing something you felt could have changed the situation - and sometimes we are angry at the person who died - for leaving. Anger is another indication of how intensely we loved the person we have lost.

Bargaining - is a way we try and change our situation and reverse what has happened. We fall into bargaining and what if’s. I often use the death of Princess Diana to try and explain this to my clients. At the time she died news papers were filled with the ‘what if’s’..... what if she hadn’t been in Paris that night?....what if she had remained married to Prince Charles.?.. what if there had been a different driver that night.?...what if she had never met Dodi?..... What they were really saying is - what if her life had been different that night - it would never have happened. She would not have died - we would not be here. We somehow want to go back in time to reverse the dreadful consequence that has brought us to the loss of our loved one. We will try to do anything to change what has happened and to stop the pain - we even try to reverse time.

Depression - our bargaining is futile and we realise the reality of our loss which brings feelings of emptiness and grief. Our feelings are very strong and overwhelming, at times it feels that it will always be like this . You cry, I prefer the term ‘weep’ as it is like an open wound. You may feel extremely depressed, unlike many depressions which may need clinical support - this depression is grief. This is what it feels like to lose someone. You cannot snap out of it - you cannot do the things you normally do, you may lose concentration and forget simple tasks. In my experience I often forgot how to cook - I would go to the supermarket and often return empty handed as I wouldn’t be a bee to remember the ingredients for a Shepherds Pie! Sometimes I would cry at most inopportune moments - sometimes in the supermarket where I just used to leave the shopping trolley and go home. Depression is a normal part of grieving, we have to grieve the loss, wonderful events and times with that person pop into our heads and then we realise that we will never experience it again. Depression is the sadness we experience when we start to accept that our lives will never the same again - life continues but has changed.

Acceptance - this is a stage of acknowledging life has to continue without the person we have lost. This does not mean we are going to forget them to that our sadness stops but that we have to find ways to continue with our lives and adapt to our new situation. Acceptance does not mean that you are ‘ok’ - or ‘all right’ as you may never feel its ok about the loss. But life has changed and we learn to accept it, even if we don’t like it. We start adapting to life’s it is now. We may learn to accept our new situation gradually, we may change our lives slowly. We may need to live in a smaller house - this is a big change and hopefully not one that needs to be made in a hurry. you may need to ask neighbours to help with domestic issues where as normally you could have depended on your partner or parent to help you. A colleague of mine really felt the loss of her husband many years after his death when she had to choose a new school for her son -she felt the only other person who would have been interested in helping her was her husband, they may have disagreed but he would have wanted the best for his son.
Our brains/minds need time to adjust - a client once old me that she struggled to change the quantity of food she bought after her husband died. For 40 years she had bought the weekly shop for two people and she struggled to change this. When the food started to perish she used to become very upset as it reminded her of her loss. Part of her acceptance was to change the amount of food she bought on a weekly basis which she gradually was achieved.

We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, have new meaningful relationships, we start to heal and grow. We change as the experience of loss is significant, we have experienced pain in n inexplicable way. We survive it and become stronger. We often start to appreciate life differently and w begin to live again - but we don’t forget. We don’t need to forget.

These stages are a process and we do not enter and leave the stages in a linear process, we can go back and forth into anger and bargaining throughout the day and throughout the proceeding months. Months after the death of my ex husband I though I spotted him in Waterloo station. It took some time for my brain to catch up with the fact that he had died - it couldn’t possibly have been him, but for a brief moment my head had denied the fact he had died as I strained my neck to see if it was him. Some people think they are going a little crazy and don’t like to talk about these stage with others - however talking to an experienced counsellor can help you to understand that many of your feelings and thought processes are a normal part of grieving.

Learn to relax and take care of yourself. Eat nutritiously. Sleep if you need to - strong emotions can drain you. Have your hair done or go for a massage. Reflexology can help to destress. Do what you can to survive for now - listen to music or watch your favourite movie - my favourite is Pretty Woman. Sometimes choose sad ones - they will make you cry but crying is ok and you need to cry -it is healing. In the middle east the community or family tell the grieving widow sad stories to enable her to cry - sometimes in the West people become uncomfortable at the sight of others pain, it isn’t wrong to have pain or to cry. It is the most natural way of being when faced with a loss.

A hundred thousand Angels by Bliss

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have know defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths.
These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen -
a quote by Elizabeth Kubler Ross

There will be times when you recapture fun and joy and you may feel guilty that you are enjoying yourself, or you may feel bad when you laugh. These are just signs that you are healing and it is not disrespectful to the person you have lost, you have not forgotten them you have had a moments reprieve from your pain. Allow yourself to have this.
They would want you to continue with your life and they would want you to heal from the pain.

Contact me on 07910284089 if you would like to make an appointment
or email me on
lizzywicks1@gmail.com if you have questions on childhood grief.

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