Welcome to this new mini-series on loss and grief – part of my series In Therapy: Working Through…
I’ve been thinking about the colder winter months, and everything that it entails: less sunlight and therefore Seasonal affective disorder or just feeling low, sad and melancholic; celebrations and anniversaries that might remind us of things to be grateful for, but also remind us of our loved ones that we might have lost.
So, as a way to provide information and support to you, my readers, through some difficult times, I thought I would touch on the topic of loss and grief.
The main type of loss that comes to mind when we talk of grief is the death of a loved one.
Other types of loss that affect us but – can be remedied – include job loss, the end of a relationship, moving city or house, graduation from school, amongst other changes that might require adjusting to. There are lots more, but I will focus on these for the next few weeks.
Some of us might have been visited by loss more than others, and therefore this topic and the feelings and process that follow are a “normal” or familiar part of our lives.
I have lost many people in my life – sister, best friend, grandparents, and others – through accidents, old age, crime, and suicide. It is not easy to write that here, but it is part of my life, and one I can’t ignore or avoid.
The feelings arise suddenly and randomly. The memories come in the same way. Some are good memories, but the worst is remembering exactly where I was when I received the calls and everything that moved inside my mind, soul and body as I tried to understand and process each loss.
I am sure many of you reading this can relate to what I’ve written. It is painful but important to understand what we go through when we lose a loved one and how to work through grief.
It never goes away as loss by death is permanent.
But the way we cope with it and the resilience we develop helps us to carry on with our lives, in spite of the heartache and in spite of missing our loved ones throughout the year – anniversaries, birthdays, yearly celebrations, bring them back to our memory and yet another grief cycle takes place. But each year it gets easier, even if only 0.001%.
It does get easier, but it needs to do so in our own time, and each of us will process the death of a loved one in a different way.
Death due to crimes, accidents or suicide can be some of the most traumatic losses. I speak from personal experience here.
There is no time to prepare. You couldn’t be there to help or save them. You weren’t there to talk them out of harming themselves to the point of death. You couldn’t have prevented that stray bullet to hit them; you can’t stop crimes from happening.
It is becoming more and more common to hear of terror attacks in Europe, and people with mental health and other problems committing crimes where dozens or thousands of people are killed without real reason.
Budget cuts like the oned that might have led to fires such as Grenfell Tower and other avoidable situations. The trauma that comes with these sudden attacks and catastrophes is unbelievable and unbearable. It is so difficult to understand that it complicates the process of grief.
There is a slight difference when loss is predictable – for example when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness and given a few months or years to live.
The difference is that we have plenty of warning to prepare, even if it’s just a week. We can start to work through how life will be like without them, what to do to make their last days more bearable. There is time to make a few more memories with them before they go.
You can prepare for the imminent death. The rest of the grieving process will take its own form, and most likely will be very similar to the process described in previous paragraphs.
Before I end the post for this week, I would like to leave you with a few ways to think about grief and process it in a way that makes sense to you.
– It is important to keep in mind that every feeling that we experience after the loss of a loved one is valid.
– Don’t let anyone tell you that your grief is not normal, or that you should be “over it” by now. How are you expected to get over something so final?
– You are the owner of your feelings and therefore also your grief when it hits.
– Work through it at your pace and as it comes up, however, whenever and wherever it comes up.
Next week we will talk about the typical grief reactions and about what happens when we end a relationship, when we lose our health, a job, our financial security, and what grief might look like in these cases. I will also give you more ways to think about grief and how to process it.
If you need to talk about what I’ve written about here, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Until next week….
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