Coping with the process of grief

Death is the universal constant which connects us all, wealth or poor, famous or unknown. Yet dealing with death seems a unique process to us all. Grieving serves an important purpose it helps us with the change understanding how we will go on without the person who has died. There is an emptiness, which is difficult to bear, and our grieving is a responsive a protective mechanism to help us deal with our loss.

Throughout the ages society has defined how we mourn and grieve. The Edwardians would grieve for a year and thus cover all the ‘firsts’: The first birthday and so on. Even today there seems an expectation that we will get over our loss in a short period of time. Many clients report that there is lots of support at the time of the passing of the loved one and lots of help through making the arrangements for the funeral. An outpouring of grieve and love on the day and for a few weeks afterwards. But then there almost comes an expectation that you will have gotten over it. The longer your grieving goes on the less sympathetic and more judgmental society seems to become. Although most people know from their own loss or experience that grieving can take months even years (2/3 years is not uncommon). Each individual will experience grief in their own way, while there are no rules for grieving although there is perhaps a loose framework. Understanding the framework can help us to move along in the process and do what we need to do for ourselves.

Ordinarily people will experience shock and disbelief at the person’s death. This can be true even in cases where the person was terminally ill. There is often that sense of they might just have lasted an extra few hours, day, till the end of the week. Sometimes people will be in denial, and will expect or act as though the person will return or is about to walk through the door. People often dream of the loved one returning and sub consciously include them in future plans.

As this wears off a more emotional phase seems to start with many mixed emotions, anger (even at the deceased), uncontrollable crying and a deep sadness that seems to go to our very core. Many events of course trigger this very emotional response. Perhaps we have to clear the person’s possessions or clear up their affairs. Perhaps we are struggling with feelings we never expressed to the deceased.

It is important that the bereaved have some outlet for these feelings and don’t feel that they have to hide them from the world. It is important that they feel they can talk about the person who has died and won’t be judged for their experience of grief. [This is particularly important for children].

Finally there will be an acceptance of the death. The emotional rollercoaster will come to an end and although there will be ups and downs we come much more to our normal selves changed by the experience. It is worth noting that that does not mean that you believe that it is in the past or that you don’t look back in sadness and grief, but rather that they have died and you however reluctantly have to move on through your life with only their memory.

You can help yourself by:

Understanding that your grief process is unique and that many of the things you might consider silly or mad are really a very normal reaction to death.

Getting support, talk to family and friends about how you are feeling. You may even feel that a counsellor can help, because they are independent of the process and you don’t want to risk upsetting family and friends.

Allowing you to remember good times as well as the events surrounding the death.

Understanding that holidays and anniversaries are going to be difficult and allowing you the space to get through them.

Avoid using alcohol or non-prescription drugs to get through the process, they will in the end only make the feelings and your problems worse. If you feel you need these you should seek professional help.

You can get through these difficult emotions and return to a more normal lifestyle while remembering the person.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Glasgow, G46
Written by Graeme Orr, MBACP(Accred) Counsellor
Glasgow, G46

I am an Accredited Member of BACP offering counselling in person (southside of Glasgow) and on-line (UK wide) for individuals. It can be a daunting prospect to choose a counsellor just when we are at our most vulnerable, I hope that what you read here resonates with you.  We all struggle with d...

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