Do you feel angry as you keep going over all the things that you never said before they died?
Do your eyes fill with tears each time your remember all the memories you shared?
Do you feel guilty because you did not make the most of the time you had left with your loved one?
Have you been grieving for a long time and wondering whether you will ever be able to overcome your loss?
Do you keep wishing that you had been a better person toward your loved one?
The loss of a partner, parent, sibling, close friend or a pet is one of the most heart wrenching experiences that you will face in life. It is hard to face the void left by their absence along with the isolation, sadness, anger, despair and shock brought on by the painful loss.
How to deal with bereavement
Below are 5 initial steps to help you deal with bereavement as well as information on different aspects of grief and bereavement.
Five ways of dealing with grief
It is worth bearing in mind that grief is a complex process and that these five steps are a way to support yourself. There is no pretence or expectation here that you can overcome your grief as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Give yourself permission to grief and to feel the emotions that you are experiencing as a result of your loss. Whilst being strong, brave and tough might help you stay on top of things in the immediate aftermath of the loss, repressing your vulnerability over a long period of time is likely to affect your well being in the long term.
Be generous and kind to yourself by giving yourself the time that you need to grief and overcome your loss. The pressure of having to find closure can only add to the stress and pain that you are already feeling. To start with it might help you to live one day at the time and take care of your basic needs and day to day tasks. There is an added benefit to this, which is that daily routine tasks enable you to stay in the present and help you feel grounded. This might help if you are feeling overwhelmed.
Give your feelings and outlet. If you are feeling angry you may want to take up a sport or discipline to help you shift that energy. If you are feeling lots of sadness or regret you can write a letter to the deceased as if you were going to send it. If you are struggling to find the right words grab a large piece of paper, some crayons and allow your hand to draw freely. When done try to describe what you see grieving apartwithout looking for interpretations and notice what you come up with. You may find that suddenly the words start to flow. If you still can’t put words to what you are feeling then accept that this is where you are at for now. A great advantage of using free hand drawing for self expression is that you don’t actually need words to express your feelings.
When you become aware of emotional pain, remind yourself that you have pain and that you are more than your pain. You can imagine that there is a bereaved part in you. You can give it a name such as the grieve husband or the grieving son. Turn to this part as if you were talking to a young boy or girl in need of comfort. Ask what it needs right now? Does it need to slow down, does he or she want a hug or a cuddle or is she in need of compassion? Is he craving his favourite food? Then see what you can do satisfy the needs of the grieving part in you.
5. A safe place to talk and feel heard
This might be a trusted colleague, a friend or family member who you feel close too. If you already have a confidant but feel the need for additional support then you may wish to see a counsellor for some time. The soothing and empathic presence of a person who listens attentively without judging can be very liberating and healing.
The five stage model conceived by Kubler-Ross is a very well known theory of bereavement, which has become part of popular culture. It is an easy to grasp map that has helped many understand what is happening to them while they are grieving. However the word “stage” can be misunderstood and has led many to think that there might be a linear timeline for grief. It is the reason why I prefer to talk about aspects of grief or aspects bereavement rather than stages. It takes the linear element out of the theory.
Denial is likely to be the first thing you might be feeling. Perhaps even anger? Both responses are a way to guard against the vulnerability that you feel. Denial helps you to rationalise the loss. Anger, with its powerful energy, protects you from pain and vulnerability. These reactions are often followed by what is known as bargaining: “If only I had been kinder to them….” , which is an attempt to delay acceptance. As you become more aware of your grief and open up to the idea that your loved one will not come back, depression is likely to set in. You may feel depressed because you start worrying about the practical consequences of the bereavement and because you worry that you may have neglected people around by focusing on your grief. It is worth remembering that you may experience all, some or none of the above stages and that you might go through them several times and in different orders before you reach acceptance. By this I mean acceptance of the physical absence of the person. Hopefully you will find that love doesn’t actually die and that part of your loved one stays with you.
The continuous bond: relating to the person who has died
Overcoming the loss and adjusting to a new life without the person who has died, can take several months and more frequently years. Feelings such as anger, sadness, frustration, denial may come and go, increase and decrease in intensity. All the things you said, wish you had said or regret saying, stay with you until they are given an outlet.
When someone is close to you, you carry them in your thoughts all the time. They become a part of you. After they are gone, their meaningful presence stays with you. They are still part of your internal dialgoue and thoughts. For those who believe in a spiritual dimension, it might feel like the energy of their loved one still surrounds them. The relationship with the dead person somehow continues as you carry them in your heart and your memory. In my experience part of the bereavement is giving the dead person a new space in your life and sometimes forge a new dialogue with them.
The process of bereavement is often rendered more complex by challenging family situations such as family members suffering addictions, siblings rivalry or abuse, for example. Challenges linked to the disposal of estates and personal belongings can cause friction between family members and add to the grief.
Sudden loss and ambiguous Loss
The feelings and thoughts associated with bereavement are often heightened by the way in which the person close to you has died. In the event of a fatal stroke you might feel overwhelmed by shock. People around you may be quick to say “at least they did not suffer”. Comments like that offer very little comfort; at least not in the early stages of grief. Being close to someone who is slowly dying as a result of cancer or dementia is heartbreaking for different reasons. Day after day you are forced to watch the person slip away and are powerless to help. It becomes harder and harder to recognise the person they were and it is agonising to watch the illness consume their body and spirit. The latter is known as ambiguous or unclear loss because the person is physically alive but unable to relate to you in the way that they used to. In other words, they are there and the same time they are not. Ambiguous loss or unresolved grief also applies to the opposite scenario i.e. when the body of a deceased can not be found or when a loved one goes missing.
Grieving apart: dealing with grief overseas
Geographical distance can often complicate grief. If you live far away from the rest of the family you may find that it is taking you longer to move on. This usually becomes evident when you visit family. Your mother and siblings may show signs of moving on such as throwing away belongings of your dead father or making changes to the layout of the house. When you visit you may find that these changes feel too premature and part of you wishes that maybe some of your father’s clothes, his slippers or his favourite cushion on the couch were still around to help you feel his comforting presence.
Visiting home after the person has passed away, can also reawaken the loss you might have felt when you first moved away. You might feel like that you actually lost your loved one long before they died as the relationship changed considerably after you moved. Some might argue that this loss is less of an issue as the internet and mobile phones make it easier to keep in touch. However the comfort and support of physical closeness can be hard to replicate via whatsapp or facetime. Some clients have found that distance has helped them overcome grief more quickly. They say that this is because living far away from home means they were already used to the person not being around, which makes it easier to accept that the person has died.
On a more positive note, distance can offer a clearer benchmark for healing. It can be easier to be aware of how you feel about taking flowers to your mum’s grave a couple times a year during your vists as opposed to visting her grave more regularly like you might have done if you lived in the same town. Every time you put down the flowers you can ponder on how you feel about your grief and compared it to how you felt six months ago. It is a bit like noticing changes in people’s physical appereance. You are much more aware how they change if you see them twice a year compared to seeing them every week. It is equally easier to sense when you have reached a new milestone in your bereavement journey and are nearing closure.
Benefits of bereavement counselling
If dealing with grief is difficult for you then bereavement counselling can help in the following way:
- providing a safe place where to express and process the feelings you are experiencing as a result of your loss
- understand that grieving involves going through certain stages and acknowledge that the feelings you are experiencing are normal
- Look at areas of your life where you are struggling and help you to find a way forward
- Gradually find a way to channel the energy from the relationship you had with your loved into a different aspect of your life
- Reaching acceptance of your loss
- Identify positive memories to gain comfort without being overwhelmed by your grief
Where to get grief counselling
Are you looking for a bereavement service or a bereavement therapist?
Are you looking for help with bereavement?
Then you have come to the right place. You can either book an appointment to work with me face to face in Shepherds Bush or alternatively you can receive grief counselling over the internet or phone.
Bereavement services West London (in person)
I am a therapist in private practice and I offer bereavement counselling, also known as grief therapy, in West London Shepherds Bush.
Online Bereavement Support
As well as offering grief counselling in person, I also offer online bereavement support. This is particularly suited if you are unable to travel because of lack of time or reduced mobility.
Telephone Bereavement Support
In the event that you live in a remote area with slow internet connection or if you simply prefer to work without video link, I offer bereavement counselling over the telephone or mobile.
Use the phone number and email in the sidebar to contact me today and make a start towards healing from your grief.