Grieving - how come it's so unpredictable?
One of the most difficult things about grieving is that you can never tell from one moment to the next what it's going to be like. You can read books and articles about it, but no-one can really explain your experience to you.
Why can you organise your father's funeral without turning a hair and then collapse in floods of tears a year later when you find an old photograph? How come you can sell your parents' house with efficiency and care but end up not being able to decide what to cook for tea?
How come all the certainties of your old life start collapsing into chaos after a family death? The things you'd planned for, your hopes and dreams, end up not mattering in the slightest. Or perhaps you constantly feel irritable and sometimes become so angry that you fall out with your family and friends for no reason at all. And this doesn't just happen for days or weeks but for months or even years. When your friends and colleagues think you must surely be over it you feel as if you're just beginning to grasp what a huge happening it was.
I suppose we could say that what's happening after a death is that your whole person is coming to terms with the absence of your loved one and so, consciously or unconsciously, there's no energy left for anyone or anything else.
At this point you need to be gentle with yourself, to give yourself much more time and space than you can ever imagine and to find people who understand just what an enormous thing has happened to you. That's where counsellors can be such a help: they're not family, friends or colleagues nor do they have an ongoing relationship with you. What they can offer you is a regular, safe space to share your ups and downs and the mysterious things that are happening to you without your feeling judged or criticised or being
told to pull yourself together.
One of the few things we can say with certainty about grieving is that it is unpredictable, changeable and sometimes really frightening. So if it's all getting too overwhelming or difficult, please don't hesitate to look for a counsellor in your area. You may look back later and decide it was the best thing you ever did.
Related articles from our experts
- Multiple loss
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- What few people know about grief and bereavement
Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor20th April, 2017
- Permission to talk about mental health and grief
Kelly Stewart - Psychotherapist, MA, MBACP19th April, 2017
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