Here is an article I wrote for www.counselling-directory.org.uk a while ago on understanding and making sense of grief.
“I just don’t understand why this happened. I just want them back in my life”.
When we lose someone, we ask these questions and desperately try to understand and come to terms with a world in which a person we loved no longer exists. This task seems impassable and vast. Grief is painful, smothering and at points incapacitating.
“I just feel as though… I’ll never recover from this. Things will never be the same again”.
Allowing ourselves to feel, to think and to express our emotions surrounding a loss is incredibly important. Often, it can be much more simple to squash feelings down because the idea of feeling them seems exhausting or overwhelming. It is understandable that we may find ourselves wondering if we will ever be ok again, and questioning whether we can survive. Opening ourselves up to those painful and difficult feelings is not an easy task, and takes courage and strength.
“I can’t explain it, I just feel removed… strange”.
It is to be expected that experiencing a loss will bring about sadness, longing, anger and maybe even guilt. But often when we lose someone we experience a wide range of feelings that we were not expecting, and these feelings can often be alien to us, and leave us struggling to understand where to go or what to do. The end of a person’s life reveals to us all our inherent frailty, exposes what it means to be human: that we all die. This revelation carries with it heavy baggage and reminds us of our mortality.
“I’d do anything to get them back”.
When experiencing a loss we all bargain and yearn for the person we have lost. We make deals within our minds and imagine ways to get them back. This yearning and searching stage can be the most difficult. Even more painful is the realisation that we can’t bring this person back, which can be a crushing blow to deal with. It is gut wrenching knowing that you will never get the chance to speak to this person again, ask them questions or tell them the things which you never got the chance to do when they were alive. The aim of working through bereavement in therapy in some respects is to be able to reconcile this fact within your own mind.
“How do I move on?”
When lost in grief this question can seem huge. However, the phrase ‘time is a great healer’ holds weight within bereavement work. It is time to express feelings, time to understand and explore these feelings that proves to be the most important resource in making sense of grief. Unfortunately, people often want you to “Get on with it” or “Move on with your life”. This does not help; in fact it hinders the process. Being with your grief, letting it out, letting it affect you, is ok. What can help grief is speaking to others about the person who passed, sharing memories, honouring their memory will all help this transition to happen.
“What does the future hold for me?”
Grief will never have a clear cut path, nor will it ever follow a pattern, and no theory on grief can ever explain how you will feel, but given time, we are able to manage our grief and begin to get to a place where can begin to make sense of what has happened to us, and understand a world without our loved ones.
Making sense of grief is not about “Moving on” or “Getting over the loss”, it is about making space in our hearts and souls for that person and finding ways that we can cherish their memory. It is inevitable that we will have times when we remember them and smile, and days when we will struggle to understand our loss and feel deep sadness. Making sense of grief is about realising we can hold in mind a range of feelings, thoughts and ideas about our loved one.
Of course, some days will be harder than others, but we will always remember that person, cry, smile and hopefully laugh now and again.