Moving through bereavement and loss

A great kindness you can give yourself, if you are experiencing bereavement or any kind of loss at this time, is to drop the idea that you should be feeling any other way than how you are feeling right now.

We constantly live in a state of change, and this incurs loss at every turn. We can choose to work with these changes and meet them, or we can fight them which will throw up more issues for us to deal with.

Generally, we are used to reaching for something to “ease our pain”, and this can be anything which stops us from feeling the discomfort of our own emotions and mental distress. But emotions are simply the mind and body's way of informing us that something within you needs attention. Your mindset will have been programmed from your younger years, and often all that is needed is acknowledgement, expression and perhaps validation.

The above is rarely something we are taught from an early age, and so we create our own strategies and ways of coping again from that early age, created possibly from a reaction to something which already happened, but we don’t tend to review these strategies as we become older. So, what we are doing is using old coping mechanisms and strategies put in place during childhood, which are not only out of date but most likely completely ineffective and possibly more harmful than helpful.

Grief will bring all kinds of emotion to the surface, many of which we will try desperately to ignore or suppress in some way, such as alcohol, medication, drugs, sex, food etc. Grief brings emotions that feel like waves washing onto the shore - they will come and go continually. There may be no warning or apparent reason, and the size of the waves can be dependent upon the timing of the loss, for example how raw you feel, any anniversaries and also of course the relationship with the deceased or the loss experienced.

So anytime you have a feeling or sensation that you weren’t expecting, allow that as much as you possibly can, without fighting it or trying to change anything. Just support yourself as well as you are able whilst the sensations of emotion move through your body and are released. The release may come with tears, you might sigh or yawn a lot, or even become angry and need to shout or scream.

Just to be as accepting as you are able with the emotions that arise, however uncomfortable and awful it feels, is completely natural and normal. It is simply some energy moving around your body and most likely looking for release.

Don’t analyse; imagine if you were with someone you loved - you wouldn’t necessarily analyse them; you would simply listen and try to soothe them. This is similar. Just observe, pay attention and allow your body to inform you of what it needs in this moment. In this way, you will begin to understand your needs more deeply and more immediately. There isn’t always a reason for emotions to surface, so bear that in mind too. Sometimes there is just some energy which needs to be released and became stuck in the body somewhere at some time. It may just come up to be let go.

Releasing can be as simple as just allowing tears, shouting and screaming, hitting pillows or cushions, writing your feelings down, or yawning - all of these are forms of healthy release. Working with emotions can be far more about not doing than ever having to really do anything more than is already happening naturally.

Grief is a completely natural occurrence in life; it is a way that we express change or loss to some attachment. It will ease, and it will pass. The more you allow yourself to not fight or deny feelings and sensations as they appear, the less tense your body will be, and the more naturally you will move through this whole process. The more you avoid, fight and therefore delay this, the more likely it will stay with you and affect your day to day life.

Allow yourself to express and be however you need to be; this is the greatest kindness you can give to yourself, and any others you know who are grieving. Be with those you love and who support you, and don’t force yourself to meet unrealistic goals or to do things that aren’t necessary.

There are no right words, and there is no balm for this, but self-kindness and self-love is the greatest gift that you can give as you recover yourself fully.

Giving yourself the permission, you might need to just be however you are right in this moment, no matter what and being fully accepting of that. Without having to please anyone else, putting your needs first is an extremely powerful way to live.

Also, in this way when you are fully self-loved up and supported, you are far readier and probably open to supporting those around you, but now in a healthy way.

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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Brixham, Devon, TQ5
Written by Janet Astle, Counselling, Psychotherapy & Supervision Member NCS (Accred)
Brixham, Devon, TQ5

Janet has a private practice in South Devon where she offers Psychotherapy, Counselling and Coaching. It is her pleasure to facilitate emotional recovery for Clients, having received amazing support throughout her own self awareness process.
She continues to work deeply with self-inquiry and direct experience which she brings to her practice work.

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