Bereavement counselling can help in coping with the pain and potential loneliness of grief. The death of a loved one can be devastating, one of the hardest challenges we face in life. Everyone experiences grief differently and there is no ‘normal’ or ‘right’ way to grieve.
Bereavement counselling offers an opportunity to understand the process of loss, and can give a framework to manage grief. We can explore areas that could potentially prevent you from moving on, helping to resolve areas of conflict in order to be able to move forward. It is so important to have time and permission to grieve. People come to bereavement counselling at different times. This could be a couple of months after their loss or a year or more later. It also could be during a terminal illness as the bereavement process can start before someone dies.
The stages of loss are not linear, emotions interweave and different stages can come and go.
Shock: It may take a long time to grasp what has happened and a response to grief can be a feeling of numbness almost as if the loss will not register or it may hit hard and feel deeply frightening, triggering anxiety and panic. It can feel disorientating and confusing.
Pain: Feelings of pain and distress following bereavement can be overwhelming and very frightening. Sometimes people can experience an overwhelming urge to do something about the situation, it can be hard to sleep and hard to relate to the world around us as it carries on as if nothing has changed.
Anger: Sometimes bereavement can trigger feelings of anger. People can feel that anger is socially unacceptable but it is a natural emotion. Death can seem cruel and unfair, especially when you feel someone has died before their time or when you had plans for the future together. We may also feel angry towards the person who has died, or angry at ourselves for things we did or didn’t do or say to the person before their death.
Guilt: Guilt is another common reaction, perhaps wishing that things could have been different. It can be a complex and different form of grief if it was a difficult or confusing relationship with the person who has died.
Depression: Many bereaved people experience feelings of depression following the death of someone close. Life can feel like it no longer holds any meaning, it is hard to see the point in anything.
Longing: Thinking you are hearing or seeing someone who has died is a common experience and can happen when you least expect it. You may find that you can’t stop thinking about the events leading up to the death. “Seeing” the person who has died and hearing their voice can happen because the brain is trying to process the death and acknowledge the finality of it, or perhaps it is comforting to feel the presence of the person who has died. This might be through little signs like music on the radio or perhaps in dreams.
Other people’s reactions: One of the hardest things to face when we are bereaved is the way other people react to us. They often do not know what to say or how to respond to our loss. Because they don’t know what to say or are worried about saying the wrong thing, people sometimes avoid those who have lost someone. This is hard for us because we may well want to talk about the person who has died. It can become especially hard as time goes on and other people’s memories of the person who has died fade. People can discover and develop new friendships and bonds as life changes and they hopefully discover like minded people who have an understanding of this life changing experience.