Bereavement and loss are a universal experience, although it happens to us in different ways and affects us in different ways. Losing a loved one when they die, or suffering the loss of a relationship, financial security, an opportunity, or one’s health can all mean having to experience feelings of grief and mourning.
Some people suffer early and traumatic losses, whilst others can live largely without thinking about the reality of death and loss, until it is visited upon them. In some cultures, death and dying is not much talked about, and so many people feel unprepared when it happens. They may feel that they are struggling alone, unsure if what they are experiencing is ‘normal’, or if they are grieving in ‘the right way’.
Grief is a process of adjustment, a highly personal emotional process, which we all find our unique way through. It can affect people of any age, and many factors can affect the course of grieving such as the circumstances around the loss, other life issues going on at the same time, and most importantly the nature of the relationship to the something or someone lost.
The experience of mourning and bereavement changes over time, although at times it can feel as though strong feelings like sadness or anger will remain forever. Feelings can be very mixed; mourning is not just about feeling sadness. These different emotions can come in ‘waves’ and can take a physical form, affecting appetite and sleep; its certainly true that mourning is tiring, because it is emotional work. There may be times of feelings calm and moments of joy, as well as periods of numbness.
However, if you experience numbness or disconnection from your feelings for a sustained period, it could be useful to seek professional help. Similarly, if you are feeling under pressure to ‘be strong not sad’ and ‘keep going’, or feel you are ‘stuck’ with particular feelings or thoughts, accessing therapy could help you re-engage with the process of mourning and come through it.
However, grief affects you, it’s important to ensure you have support around you whilst you’re going through it. It may feel difficult to know or express what you might need from others, especially in the early stages of mourning, but having people to check in with you and help you with ordinary practical things can make a big difference. Similarly, if you notice that you have withdrawn and become isolated for some time, it may be useful to access professional help.
Therapy can support people as they go through the process of mourning by allowing a safe exploration of feelings, as well as by providing information and tools to help people cope. Therapy is not usually recommended during the early stages of grief, when the natural process of mourning and beginning to feel the loss is best supported by time with family and friends as well as by getting enough rest and looking after oneself. However, therapy can be particularly helpful when the loss is complicated by a difficult relationship to the person, or where grieving has become ‘stuck’ or interrupted.
Our experienced and skilled clinicians can help you manage experiences of loss, supporting you to develop a deeper connection with yourself and with a sense of purpose and wholeness.