The roots of loss and grief

Loss travels deeply into many aspects of our lives and the reminders of those we have lost appear in many different ways. We may be reminded of our loved one by a smell, a sound or a place we visit. Often when we become deeply upset, angry or emotional, we do not attribute these feelings to our loss, but often it can be the case that our grief is seeking ways to be brought into the light and recognised.

When we speak about the roots of loss and grief, we are speaking about the experiences, feelings and thoughts which are related in some way to losing someone. Loss can take up position in our deepest thoughts, and occur when we least expect it, and often with no prior warning.

Uncontrollable feelings

It is common after experiencing a loss to question whether your thoughts and feelings are normal and if these feelings are within your control. It can seem as if at any time you may explode in a torrent of tears of emotion. Often, after losing someone, we can feel as though we do not know how to put a stopper in the overwhelming feelings that seem to keep washing over us. Grief manifests itself unconsciously, and this can account for feeling suddenly overwhelmed by the grief and sadness. The difficulty is, that these feelings arise when you really do not want them to, for example being at work, and suddenly feeling choked up.

 Are my feelings normal?

We will no doubt experience a wide range of emotions after experiencing a loss, and it can be common to question whether these feelings are normal. We may find ourselves in the supermarket buying lunch, and be overcome by intense feeling, or watching an advert on television that makes us well up with deep emotion. The answer is that yes, this is normal and totally understandable after a loss.

The roots of loss and grief do not always make themselves clear, and it is this reason why we find ourselves getting upset at small things, which at the time seem unrelated to our loved one. Of course, we can more easily understand our feelings when they are directly related to the loved one. For example, looking at a photograph or reading an email or letter, these are direct links to our past and the relationship we had with our loved one. It is the feelings that sneak up on us, and surprise us which are most hard to manage.

 How do I manage my feelings?

Of course it is not preferable to be awash with uncontrollable feelings, but when we begin to put layers and layers on top our true feelings and emotions, it can be hard to find them later. So, how do we manage these feelings whilst still allowing ourselves to feel? This is not an easy question, and differs from each person, but a good start is not to dismiss the feelings when they appear.

It can be helpful, to write things down if your thoughts become difficult to manage, sort out or understand. Finding time in the week to give back to yourself, your feelings and emotions is also a helpful way of maintaining a balance of feeling, and can allow you to more clearly distinguish which feelings are related to the loss, and which aren’t.

 Importance of dreams

Often in dreams, especially in the first few months after experiencing a loss, we will see our loved one, spend time with them, and wake up feeling empty and alone wishing we could be back within our dream This is a good sign that the roots of loss and grief are weaved within mind and unconscious thoughts at a profoundly deep level. The pain we experience after a loss is so powerful that it can be difficult to separate between what is real and what is not, which is why our dreams can often be so vivid and real.

Dreams should not be seen as something to be feared, more as our unconscious mind showing us that we are giving time, thought and feeling to those we have lost. It is in dreams, that we can gain a sense of our grief, and find a place in our minds for our loved one.

I am changed forever… but I am OK

The roots of loss and grief will always be within our lives, and we will never forget our loved one or move on. As we are able to manage our grief, understand the trigger points for painful feelings and get through difficult days, the difficult feelings will subside. There will be times when we think of nothing but our loved one, and other days when they hardly cross our minds. This does not mean we have forgotten them, it means that we have been able to live our lives, and readjust to living with loss.

Loss will change us, and we will never be the same person we were before, but then again, why would we want to be? The experience of losing someone can make us feel as though we will never feel better, never come to terms with what happened or never again feel a sense of joy. The truth is, we will be changed forever, but will be able to find our own place within a world where our loved one no longer exists.

 Looking forward

The roots of loss and grief spread far and wide within our lives, our souls and our hearts, and the cost of losing someone cannot be measured, judged or explained sufficiently with words because it is such a unique process. However, we will in time be able to manage the deeply formed roots of loss and grief, understand who we have now become and be able to hold both happy and sad memories of our loved in mind at the same time. To get to this point takes courage and should be considered a great achievement.

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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London N6 & NW5
Written by Joshua Miles, BA, MSc, BPC, BACP Accredited Psychodynamic Psychotherapist
London N6 & NW5

Joshua is an experienced Bereavement Counsellor Therapist with particular expertise working with sudden or abrupt loss. He has helped many people work through the pain of their loss. Joshua also has experience of working with a wide range of issues such as loneliness, isolation, depression, relationship difficulties and anxiety.

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