The world is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. The Coronavirus is causing death rates to spiral out of control and more and more people are having to cope with the grief of losing someone close to them.
Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult times in life. This is even more difficult when there are complex issues around that loss. Here are some ways that will help you to come to terms with your loss over a period of time.
1. Understanding the nature of grief
Nobody’s grief is the same. We all deal with it in our own way. Firstly, there is shock and disbelief when we get the news. We have to get busy with the practicalities of the funeral and associated events. It is often when this is all over that the grief begins to emerge.
It may feel like dark clouds take you over without warning, or the grief may be triggered by certain memories. There is no way of knowing when these clouds will take over. This is the nature and uncertainty of grief. It does not mean you are going mad or there is something wrong in the way you are dealing with it. Remember grief is normal. You may feel more like this for the first few months, but it may be triggered again especially around significant dates such as birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries etc. Remember this is normal.
2. Working through grief
The emotions of grief can be made up of sadness, anger, disappointment, frustrations, guilt, despair, regret et al. It is normal to feel these, so just accept it. It is imperative that whatever you are feeling is not suppressed within you and you allow yourself to express it. If you do not do this, it will stay in your emotional bottle in your body and be triggered later. I hear this from clients regularly.
An unresolved loss can trigger after years of festering away in your body. This isn’t healthy for you or the other people in your life. It can cause mental health issues and limit your quality of life. So, make the commitment to work through your grief.
These two techniques may be helpful in doing so.
a) Therapeutic writing: Start writing ‘I am feeling sad/angry because………’ and fill in the rest of the sentence. Alternatively, you can write letters to your loved one on a regular basis and put these by something that symbolises them, such as their photo or a precious item. This will allow you to convert all of the unspoken to the spoken, which is both healing and cathartic.
b) The empty chair technique: This technique has a strong empirical base and comes from the Gestalt Psychology model. It simply means, you imagine your loved one is sitting in a chair and you verbalise everything you want to say to them.
At first, it may feel awkward speaking to someone who is not there, but it is extremely liberating once you get the hang of it. Many of my clients say this is one of the most helpful techniques they have taken away from our work. They use it regularly whenever someone is stressing them out. Try it. You will be surprised.
3. Support network
It is not a sign of weakness to reach out and ask for support. Make a list of everyone you know; friends, family, colleagues, neighbours etc. Now tick 9 people from this list, 3 of each, who can provide practical, psychological and moral support. Connect with them and sustain this support circle.
Everybody deals with their grief differently and you may need various forms of support. It is quite common that one day you may want to talk to someone and on another day just be by yourself to reflect. Your friends and family cannot read your mind. Often they want to help but do not know how to. So, be specific about exactly how you want their support ‘I know it will help to talk, but I do not feel like it today’. ‘I will call you when I need a chat’ or ‘I could do with going through all this paperwork. Are you able to come on Saturday afternoon?.’
4. Professional support
Do not hesitate to take this up, if the support from others is not enough. There are many charities and organisations that offer bereavement counselling and crisis support. There is also www.bacp.co.uk that has a register of counsellors in your area.
Grieving can be very tiring, as your body uses up a lot of energy to process the loss emotionally. Plus, there are many practical issues to sort out too during this time. Pay attention to your self-care by exercising regularly, eating healthily etc. There will be days when you will not have the motivation to do anything. At these times, use relaxation and breathing exercises or meditation, which do not take much effort but will lift your spirits up. There are some free audios that you can listen to on our website – www.aumconsultancy.co.uk/freeresources.
- Allow yourself to grieve instead of denying the complex mix of emotions which will emerge as a result of your loss.
- Do not suppress your grief. Work through it gradually by speaking to others and using the above techniques.
- Stay in touch with what you need on a day to day basis. Ask specifically about how you want to be supported.
- Give yourself time to come to terms with the loss. It will not happen overnight, as it is a process over a period of time. The more you are proactive about dealing with it, the less time it will take to come to terms with it.
- Be kind to yourself and take very good care of yourself during this process.
- You will emerge on the other side as a stronger individual.