"For most of us, bereavement will be the most distressing experience we will ever face. Grief is what we feel when somebody we are close to dies. Everyone experiences grief differently and there is no 'normal' or 'right' way to grieve." Cruse Bereavement Care Website 2018
I am always surprised how little is commonly known about the normal grieving process, most only engage with it when they or a close friend is bereaved. I think the main reason lies within our western culture where we deny our own mortality, we say things like ‘if I die’ rather than ‘when I die’.
Bereavement is our reaction to the loss of something or someone that has really mattered, both personally and emotionally. Bereavement is not exclusive to death, there are other major losses in our lives: separation, divorce, illness, amputation, redundancy, retirement, moving home, infertility, to name just some examples.
Why would I include bereavement and loss as an issue that people would need my help with? The answer is simple. People come to therapy feeling stuck in their grieving. They come believing that they are not passing through their experience, their mourning is not coming to an end. Clients tell me that the time has come for them to get through their grief, so they can get back to living.
In addition, grief often surfaces as the underlying cause of various physical and mental anomalies. Some clients are genuinely surprised that their grief is a major contributor to their mental ill health. It is only after our thorough clinical assessment, where the presenting issues are analysed, does it begin to make sense.
There have been many books written and theories explored all trying to give help and a better understanding to the bereavement process. There are those writers that describe the different stages of grief, a view that the mourner can pass through these stages returning to their own equilibrium at the end. There are writers that explain tasks to be undertaken, this is sometimes seen as a powerful antidote to the feelings of helplessness most mourners experience. Tasks suggest that we can be influenced by interventions by the outside, something can be done, that there is an end point.
What is universal by all writers is the knowledge that grieving takes time, hence the saying ‘Time is a great healer’.
I wanted to compile a list of agreed manifestations of normal grief to illustrate and hopefully reduce anxiety about ‘what is normal’.
I also wanted to list behaviours that are found with grief.
All the above can be experienced if you are grieving, although clearly you do not need to experience each one. People come to therapy if they are experiencing normal guilt as they want someone outside of their ‘inner circle’ to talk to and share their inner most thoughts and feelings. As the grieving process can take some considerable time, a mourner can feel guilty of burdening a loved one with their grief and as such they seek professional help.
Some people have abnormal grief reactions or complicated grief as it is sometimes called. If you think that you fall into this category we can discuss this at your initial assessment. There are several factors which lead us to complicated grief and a few triggers that I would be listening for when we meet. No matter what your presentation psychotherapy can facilitate your grieving process and we can work through ‘goals’ to get you back to where you want to be.
At the risk of sounding formulaic I believe there are four fundamental areas that we can look at to help you with your grief.