Loss and Grief
Loss is a natural and difficult part of life and comes from many experiences such as: separation or divorce; illness and death; moves, relocation and immigration; accidents and injury; changes in health and mobility; life transitions such as children moving out; retirement; aging; job loss or career change; and the many losses associated with traumatic experiences and natural disasters. Even positive experiences can involve loss, for example moving in with a partner can involve loss of independence, and a promotion can involve loss of competence and colleagues. Usually loss is multi-faceted, for example the loss of partner through separation or divorce also can involve loss of identity as a person in a couple or marriage, loss of friendships, lifestyle, hopes and dreams, family unit, community etc.
Grief involves a set of reactions and responses to loss and the meaning it holds for each person. Everyone grieves in their own way however there are many common physical, emotional, mental and spiritual symptoms that people experience. It is helpful to acknowledge and accept them as part of the grieving process. Some losses are easier than others to move through, some more complicated and painful. Depending on what the loss is and the meaning it holds, the time it takes to feel better can vary, however healing from losses can and does occur. Many losses are never really ‘gotten over’, or ‘ forgotten’, nor is that what is to be expected, however as grieving and healing occurs, people start to experience more energy for life, as the loss becomes less central, though no less meaningful.
How can counselling help with loss, isn’t it just a matter of time? Yes and no. Time does help, but doesn’t necessarily heal. Unresolved or unprocessed loss tends to linger in the background and can make life harder to navigate and enjoy. Also, a current loss can trigger a past unresolved loss, making the process more complex and harder to go through. Many of us have received messages about loss such as: ‘you’ve got to move on’, ‘don’t wallow in your sorrow’ , ‘you’re better off without them‘, ‘they wouldn’t want you to be so sad and unhappy’, ‘have a stiff upper lip’, ‘you should be over it by now’, ‘get on with life’ . These are often well intended but unhelpful as they don’t respect the depth and complexity of emotions, thoughts and meanings that we go through after a loss. Counselling does provide you with the space and understanding to go through the whole of what needs to be expressed and understood. As well, there are some useful tools that can help the process along.