Permission to talk about mental health and grief
Twenty years after the sudden death of Princess Diana, her sons, Princes William and Harry, are starting to talk about the impact it has had on them. Their intention by talking about it is to help break down the stigma that hinders us from talking about our mental health – our feelings.
Bereavement can have a long-lasting impact, particularly if we lost someone significant at a young age or if the death was unexpected – heart attack, car accident or suicide for example. Traumatic bereavement can follow the death of someone after a period of illness also. It’s not about the type of death per se; it’s the extent to which we experience it as traumatic that impacts the feelings we’re left with and how we cope.
Sometimes, we don’t recognise the impact until many years later, as was the case for Prince Harry. It can be easier to push down our feelings, often without even realising we’re doing it. We go into survival mode and get on with the practicalities of life if we’re an adult. As a child, it can be even harder to make sense of the death if the adults around us aren’t equipped to help us talk about what’s going on inside. If left unresolved, our grief may appear in other forms later – anger, self-destructive behaviour or heavy drinking.
Counselling can help us work through our grief. You may have read about different bereavement models, but grief can be a very individual experience. You may feel all sorts of normal things like numbness, denial, anger, depression, guilt, sadness and acceptance, but this is not a linear process. The feelings arise in whatever sequence and manner they need to. In counselling, as you begin talking about what happened, the unprocessed feelings will emerge naturally, and your counsellor will help you to examine and make sense of your experience.
Working with a counsellor can be a very healing process. If you’ve suffered a bereavement recently or in the past, and you’re finding it’s impacting on your daily life, I’d encourage you to try counselling.