How modern life makes grieving difficult
Dealing with the death of someone very close is the biggest loss we will experience in our lives. The death of a parent, sibling, lover or other close companion or family member can leave us feeling a mix of powerful emotions.
Coming to terms with our grief can be a major challenge. But this challenge is, in many ways, made harder by the constant activity in modern life and the subtle devaluation of more vulnerable feelings, such as sadness. There has also been an erosion in traditional religious beliefs and rituals that helped earlier generations deal with loss.
As people live longer, we have tried, as a society, to push death further out of our consciousness. The relentless emphasis on youth in the media is a symptom of this discomfort with acknowledging death.
This makes it all the harder when we are suddenly confronted with the death of a loved one.
Pressure to ‘move on’
As a therapist I have clients that have experienced major bereavements but who can feel pressure to ‘move on’ before they feel ready. This pressure may come from family, friends or employer but it is also a message we get from our society. The message is that while it may be acceptable to feel sad, upset or even angry for a short period, we need to soon ‘get on with life’ and move on.
After a couple of months following a major bereavement, people can feel that the sources of support from family or friends begin to dry up. The bereaved person may then feel reluctant to share their feelings, for fear of being judged as weak or that there’s something wrong with them.
The continual technological advances of modern life also make the grieving process harder. Grieving requires quiet and making space in our day for deeper feelings that may lay beneath the surface. With email, texts, smartphones and all the other distractions we now live with it can be difficult to find that calm.
What we can do
The best thing that we can do is to take care of ourselves and give ourselves permission to feel what we are feeling. It is tempting to distract ourselves from our feelings or to deny them if they are uncomfortable.
We do this because we are afraid if we really allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable emotions like sadness, distress or even anger, they will take us over. But actually, allowing ourselves to feel the feelings makes them less threatening not more so. It is when we shut our feelings away in a box that they become more powerful and make themselves felt in less direct ways, such as illness, depression or addiction.
Finding a trusted friend or relative to talk to about what you are going through can be very helpful, or a counsellor/therapist if you feel that would be more appropriate. It can also be valuable to make space in your life for quiet and reflective time. This could range from going for a pleasant walk or simply sitting in a church or place of worship, even if you have no particular spiritual beliefs.
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