Monique Stojakovic, one of our Senior Counselling Therpists, recently did a Q+A and talked about working with grief. We thought we would write a blog about grief for those interested in this topic.
As a natural part of life, grieving is a very common experience that most will have at some stage. There are multiple situations that leads us to grieve, such as bereavement, the end of a relationship and the loss of a job. Some of the emotions and grieving stages are similar between these situations, but we’ll be focusing on the impact of bereavement specifically.
Grief following the death of a loved one can present very differently for different people, meaning it can be quite an isolating situation to live through. It is rarely a simple, linear process, where the individual goes through each stage of grief, gradually and eventually coming to terms with their loss. Instead there is an array of thoughts and emotions, and everyone progresses in their own way, in their own time. But what exactly is bereavement? And what can help us overcome it?
What is grief?
There are multiple types of loss. Most commonly when we think of loss we think of ‘bereavement’, which is defined as the time period around the death of a loved one in which the individual grieves. This can be split into 2 types:
- Anticipatory grief. This is where a death is expected, maybe due to illness for example. This can bring forward very similar thoughts and feelings experienced after someone has died, such as deep sadness, depression, guilt, feeling lost or hopeless. In many cases, this does not help alleviate those feelings in preparation for when the individual does pass away.
- Secondary grief. This is a period of time after the person has died. Also characterised by the thoughts and feelings listed above.
What are the stages of grief?
There are a few theories as to how many stages of grief there are, but according to the Kubler-Ross, there are five. How an individual progresses through these stages is harder to guess. Grief is certainly not a linear, easy process, whereby each stage is experienced in order and only once. Each individual will go through the stages at their own pace, possibly more than once before reaching ‘Acceptance‘. The suggested stages are shown below.
What are the symptoms of grief?
- Unpredictable pattern of emotions. Grief can be very messy by producing an array of emotions, including those less predictable, such as anger, random moments of happiness, followed by guilt, possibly numbness.
- Sadness and low mood. Loss is what often triggers feeling low and depression.
- Anxiety. Particularly around others passing away.
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Poor concentration. In many cases, usual thoughts and activities are disrupted by thoughts of the loss.
- Finding social situations difficult. It can be hard for others to understand grief without experiencing it themselves in that moment, and so connecting with friends can be difficult during the grieving period.
- Feeling there is a change in identity. For example, losing a mother or partner can mean a change in status, which can also be hard to come to terms with.
Can grief be treated?
We would not usually recommend any mental health support during the first month of grief, unless someone is really struggling to cope. It is important to acknowledge and feel the loss during the initial period, as it is perfectly normal to feel those thoughts and symptoms associated with grief (e.g. low mood, anxiety, feeling hopeless).
After that time, if these symptoms are overwhelming, we would recommend counselling. Counselling provides the opportunity to process the loss and guide an individual through the stages of grief. This is done through a variety of techniques, such as creating and using a narrative to talk through the loss, and what it means for the future. It is also a chance to discuss the change in the person’s identity, if there is one.
We would also recommend a grief group, as it can be helpful to be surrounded by others who understand what you are.
Most notably, we would recommend being as patient and as kind to yourself as possible. Grieving is certainly a very difficult time, and as we have said, a rather complicated processes sometimes for us to live through. It is important to give yourself the time and space to grieve and come through it in your own time, with as little self-judgment as possible.
What can Brighter Life Therapy do to help?
If you believe you require professional help, feel free to contact us. We provide fast access to counselling treatment, which you can read about here. Please do not hesitate to contact us on 0118 40 50 108, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.