Loss and Grief Counselling
It is certain that each of us will experience loss; only the briefest lives are not touched by it. And precisely because loss is so universal, it doesn’t occur to us to seek support for one of the most difficult of life’s tasks – saying goodbye.
Loss due to Death
Navigating loss is an enormously challenging task. Nothing is what we expected, and careless comments by well-meaning others can easily turn into significant obstacles – especially when these comments reinforce unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves about how we ‘should’ be coping and what we ‘should’ be feeling.
What are you supposed to do now? Should you be talking about the person you lost as some insist, or is that dwelling on the past instead of ‘moving forward’ as others suggest? We find ourselves in a lonely place in which everyone seems to have an opinion about what we should be thinking and feeling, but few appear to care about what we are thinking and feeling. All these brightly positive suggestions seem to be saying to us Your loss isn’t really that bad, with an underlying message telling us You should not be feeling what you are feeling. As if feeling guilty about our grief will make the burden any more bearable.
This is why reaching out for help can make such a difference. There is no shortcut through grief, and no-one can grieve on your behalf, but you do not have to go though this without support or guidance. I offer a safe and non-judgmental space in which you can untangle the mass of (sometimes contradictory) emotions and explore all the dimensions of your loss in order to find a way to live with joy again.
Reaching out for help becomes especially important if you feel that you are somehow ‘stuck’ – that things just aren’t changing or getting in any way lighter, or life seems ‘paused’ in some intangible way. Issues that could complicate bereavement include guilt regarding the death or the deceased, trauma related to the loss, conflicting feelings such as relief (for example if your loved one suffered greatly) or anger at the deceased (particularly prevalent when the loss is due to suicide or carelessness), a tumultuous relationship with the lost loved one, or a loss that society dismisses as unimportant or does not acknowledge.
Trauma and Grief
Trauma is one of the biggest causes for people to get ‘stuck’ in their grief. A traumatic experience is one that is so overwhelming, it cannot be fully accepted and integrated as it is happening. There is no doubt that the manner in which we lost someone, or receive the news of their death, can be extremely traumatic. Unfortunately, when we are overwhelmed by a traumatic incident, our higher mental functions shut down and we operate from ‘survival mode’, and as a result, our memories of traumatic experiences are stored as emotions and physical sensations, rather than as facts. That is why it is impossible to access a traumatic memory without experiencing the feelings and sensations that you felt at the time of the trauma.
Since traumatic memories are so painful, we tend to do everything in our power to avoid revisiting them – but this prevents us from processing the trauma so that it can be remembered without causing fresh pain, every time. What this means for grief, is that the trauma of the loss itself can prevent a person from being able to find their way through grief to a point where their lives can be focused on a future once more.
All significant loss requires acknowledgment and grieving to get to the point where the loss is not a constant source of fresh pain. This is particularly true when the loss means also losing an identity or a future that you were invested in, such as the loss of a relationship, health issues that causes diminished ability, loss of an opportunity or a job, to name only a few. Reaching out and getting support can help make your burden just a little bit more bearable, and hope for the future a little bit more possible.