No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. – C.S. Lewis
Twelve years ago, I trained to become an integrative therapeutic counsellor and as part of the course, it was necessary to complete a placement with a Bereavement Service. This filled me with dread.
There was no getting out of it and to this day, I am so grateful, because at the time I would have, if I could have.
Why is it then that we fear death or loss? Death and ending are a major part of life. No matter what else we do with our lives, we will all meet the same end. This unique factor joins both rich and poor.
So why would I be grateful to experience the training for Bereavement?
Because it taught me even more about the wonder of life and the intensity the feeling loss can bring to us.
A Part of Life
During the course, we watched videos dealing with children grieving the loss of someone in their family; and families shielding them from their grief. And how this can be a negative introduction to loss. It is important for them to realise that death is indeed a part of life.
One child in the video spoke of being sent to school on the day his mother was buried in order to ‘save’ him from grief. The funeral car passed his playground carrying his mother’s coffin – he was devastated.
It is important for a child to learn about grief and exploring feelings of loss. Losing a pet is a good example of this and helps children to come to terms with mortality.
I learned of loss not just from death during my time with the Bereavement Service. I discovered many situations encompass the issue of loss:
– Loss of a partner/marriage
– Loss of one’s home
– Loss of a child
– Loss of a pet
– Loss of grandparents
– Loss of job
– Loss of a limb
A big part of life encompasses loss. It is part of who we are; therefore, it is important to be able to understand what it brings and to embrace the learnings instead of being fearful of them.
The Process of Grief
The main issue I think we have as mere humans is that we try to avoid the pain. We want it to go away quickly; we want to feel ‘well’ again. We like life to be normal This is quite the opposite of what we need.
Recently I resigned from my job of 18 years and felt immense grief I knew about grief, as I had studied it.
I was careful with myself and it was extremely painful I understood that I had to wait for my distressed mind to come into line with my logical mind and realize that life was going to be more positive as a result.
This is not an easy way of thinking when you are in the very midst of despair. When everything you knew was centred on getting up every day and dashing off to work. Even if you did not like the work, as was my case.
The process of grief is individual. No one cap fits all. You have to be aware of yourself and your feelings. No one can help you but yourself. Listen to yourself.
There is a definite process however and there are common factors in the process of grieving.
When interviewed many participants spoke of searching for the loved one. People who lost limbs have described having sensations from the amputated body part.
There can be a sense of presence, a feeling that the person is still there, although not in body form but in spirit. Lost persons can appear in dreams.
These are all stages of grief and when I began to understand the stages, it helped me realize that we are not alone in the grief – we are not the only ones who experience the awful pain.
That thought helped me a lot, both when studying this difficult subject, but also with my own personal grief in times of loss.
We build a defence against our loss and actually pretend it is not happening. We do this to protect our conscious mind from the pain. As time moves on, and we allow the process of grief to take its toll, warily we can begin to accept the situation until eventually it becomes familiar.
Time is a Great Healer
If we focus too much on intense yearning in the early stages of loss, then it can be more difficult in the later stages to come to terms with the inevitability of what has happened.
The opposite would be said of people who show no signs of grief in the early stages; this too can prove to be a hindrance in the healing work later on.
So expect to feel anger, expect to protest your loss, feel bitterness, resistance, blaming, and insecurity, then you will understand that your mind (both conscious and subconscious) are dealing with your grief in the normal way.
Everyone will or has been through the same process at some time in their lives and it is natural to feel these emotions.
For me that was a revelation, I was not going mad. I experienced most of the feelings we have discussed here when my mother died when I was nineteen.
When you are alone without support, you can feel like you are losing your sanity and you may never return to normality. However, you do.
It is important to allow yourself time to grieve, not to rush the process, each stage is important. There is no escaping the pain.
In the case of bereavement, it is important to feel the pain. Again, I will say it is normal and you are not alone.