Bereavement - finding a sense of relief while you grieve
‘There is no love without pain; but only love can heal that pain which it causes’ – Father Julio Lancelotti
Grief can be messy, unpredictable and exhausting. These are the the things that we are not told about when someone we love dies.
I think it is important that we acknowledge this, so that from the beginning, we have a chance to understand that what we may be experiencing is natural, and is no cause for alarm. Without this understanding, we can feel frightened of what we are going through, adding to our distress and feelings of vulnerability.
When somebody we love dies, it can feel surreal. The rest of the world just seems to carry on as usual while we may want, and need, to hit the 'pause' button.
It can feel overwhelming and we may just want to hibernate, or we may feel that we do not want to be alone and throw ourselves into doing lots of things and seeing lots of people.
Everyone's grieving process is different and so there is no wrong or right way to grieve.
Our ways of coping will be informed by our family background and what we have learned, consciously and unconsciously, about grief. These may be healthy strategies such as asking for support, allowing ourselves to have our feelings, whatever they maybe, and finding a balance of socialising and space for ourselves. Alternatively, we may have learned to avoid our feelings somehow. Throwing ourselves into doing too much work, focusing on something until it becomes all-consuming, and drinking too much alcohol may all be ways in which this avoidance occurs.
Avoiding the pain does not make it go away. Finding a balance can be difficult but surrounding ourselves with people who care about us can make all the difference.
Grief is often referred to as being experienced in waves. We can feel that we are managing well and then all of a sudden a wave of emotion washes over us, big or small. This does not mean that we have gone backwards. We can't go backwards.
Disbelief and a sense of emptiness, or feeling numb, can be difficult experiences to manage. It may help to see these times as our body's way of protecting us. We can't stay connected to our raw feelings all of the time, it would simply be too much.
Grief can be physical and we can feel exhausted.
How we may feel will depend on many factors, including our relationship to the person who has died, the quality of this relationship and how they died.
Shock is often felt when someone we love dies, and even if we knew they were going to die, we can still feel this shock. We can never truly know how we are going to feel until it happens.
We can experience happy moments whilst we are grieving and whilst this is perfectly natural, this can also be confusing. We may feel guilty for feeling happy and then feel torn about how we are supposed to feel. We can often feel anger, towards ourselves, others, and the person who has died. This is ok, and completely natural. Having a healthy outlet for this anger can help, even if this is simply allowing ourselves to cry.
In trying to make sense of what has happened, and how we feel, we can feel very lost at times.
We may mourn what was, what is, and what could have been. We may feel cheated. The sense of our own mortality may be heightened and this can cause us anxiety and fear or we may embrace the 'now' and decide to live as fully as we can.
Grief is complex and it changes us. All of our experiences change us, but they do not define us.
You may recognise some of your own experiences of grief here, or your experience maybe completely different.
We cannot solve grief, it is a natural process, not a problem. We all have to move through our own individual process and we can only do this as best we can, and with what we have to support us.
There are various models of grief and bereavement, and I feel that finding some compassion for your own experience is the greatest gift that you can give to yourself. Self-compassion as well as compassion from others.
When we are able to talk to somebody who can deeply hear us, and witness our grief, we can find a way of allowing all of our contradictory feelings to be inside of us, and we have the chance to gain a sense of relief.
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