Grief, Loss and Bereavement

Grieving woman

While loss is an inevitable part of life, the process of letting go and healing can be complicated and painful. Grief is a natural and important reaction to loss. Loss of any kind- be it a person, loss of health from a terminal illness, or simply put, the loss of ‘what used to be’. It is both a universal and a personal experience. It is not static or linear and comes in waves of heaviness or a sense of depression.

Any type of loss can challenge our sense of control and security in life, leading to feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and despair. It can also come with sadness for the loss of aspects of our own self. Because these feelings are so painful, it can be tempting to avoid, suppress, or deny their existence altogether. However, in order to move through the loss and adapt to a life that will be different moving forward, the hurt needs to be felt and learned about so it can be moved through.

Unacknowledged and processed grief can sometimes lodge as trauma in the body. This can happen when feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness accompany the sadness, essentially causing a loss of agency in life. This is why it is essential to constructively give space to emotions, thoughts and regrets.

In the case of death, factors such as the nature of death can complicate moving through the loss. When someone’s passing is sudden or violent, there may be other layers of emotions such as shock or rage that need to be processed in order to grieve.Suppose the relationship with the deceased was complicated or abusive. In that case, bereavement can be complicated by mixed feelings towards the person that has passed. In some cases, forgiveness may need to occur before letting go is possible. 

How can counselling help?

Counselling provides a space where safety and trust are established so you can face the many conflicting feelings that loss brings about while not being alone in that experience. The destabilization that comes with loss often compromises the ability to cope, so new ways of dealing with emotions and memories can be integrated to increase one’s sense of strength and resiliency. 

Working through grief takes patience and understanding, creating boundaries, resisting the instinct to isolate and being gentle with oneself. Counsellors can support you from a place of compassion and facilitate the healing needed for you to live a meaningful life after loss. 

Resources

Humphrey, G. D. & Zimpfer, D. G. (2008). Counselling for grief and bereavement [2nd ed.].  London: SAGE Publications.

Mate, G. (2020, August 11). Understanding grief as an antidote to trauma. Psychotherapy Networker. Retrieved from https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/1809/understanding-grief-as-an-antidote-to-trauma

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2016, October 16). What is grief? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/support-groups/what-is-grief

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