Welcome to the third edition of the mini-series on loss and grief.
In this edition, I would like to go through the possible reactions – feelings and behaviours – that we might go through when working through grief and loss. I will spend some time talking about how therapy can help work through grief and loss.
As with any symptom, grief symptoms are telling us something. Something is not right within ourselves after a loss, and our body and mind are working through the instability and trying to reach a balance again.
So allow yourself to feel the feelings, to grieve. It is a natural process. It is a normal process. It is your process so work through what comes up as it comes up.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the five stage of grief, as described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. These might appear in that order or in a different order and take turns creeping back up.
These might be accompanied by difficulties in sleeping, nightmares, dissociating, feeling numb or like you want to escape; you might also experience distressing thoughts, frustration and anxiety; you might want to be on your own all the time or wanting to escape; it might seem that people don’t understand you – or they might genuinely not understand what you are going through.
It is important to know that these are all part of the process, and that they will be less overwhelming as time goes on.
In the next few paragraphs, I will talk about how therapy can help work through the feelings described in the past few posts.
An integrative way of working might be the best approach to helping someone work through their loss. Grief is a process, and this process will be different for everyone. The aim is to experience the loss and all the feelings it might bring – pain, depression, isolation, anxiety, guilt – and get to the point where new meaning in the survivor’s life is reached.
They can then move on to living their lives with the memory of the person they lost, without being stuck in the grief and pain as it was when they first started the mourning process.
I would work within the psychodynamic, person-centred and cognitive modalities to support my client in their grief process.
Some of the areas I would work with would be:
Challenging irrational thinking
- as a way to being able to manage the strong emotions that come up.
- Developing more rational ways of thinking- develop healthy negatives.
- For example – “I can’t live without the person”, can be challenged with the fact that they are still managing to be here without their loved one.
- Challenge belief systems around the loss
- Someone going through grief might be less positive about their lives and their self-worth, they might have more irrational thoughts than before the loss
- Attachment theories would support the person in their natural reactions to the death of their loved one. The bonds created during the relationship need to be re-thought and processed.
- How will the client carry on with their lives without their loved one present?
- Will they ever have a relationship like this again?
- Review the person’s life in regards to how they feel their life will be after the loss.
- How does this change their character and identity?
- Allowing for transitional periods where an item of clothing, a photograph or something else that belonged to the person, might be carried around as a temporary substitute for their loved one. They might give the item up once they are able to internalise the memory of their loved one and what it means that they are dead.
All in all, the therapist must trust that their client can find their own way through the grief process, with their support, and come out the other side with a renewed sense of self as they adjust to life without their loved one.
If there is anything I can help you with, do contact me via this link.
Note: this is the last blog post I’m writing for the year. Don’t worry, I will still be sending you weekly emails for the last few weeks of December, they might be more festive ones. I hope you enjoy them, and enjoy the celebrations!