Loss and Rememberance

Loss and Rememberance

“Grief is the price we pay for love”
Queen Elizabeth II of England

Loosing a person we care for, love, is an almost unbearable pain.
The simple harsh truth that the person will never return from death is a painful dagger to our soul. Despite this attack on our sense of self and hope for our future, we are compelled to try continue living without them.

There are other ways to experience loss apart from death. Divorce being one. The loss of a person you presumed you would be with forever.
Selling your house, adult children leaving the family home, retirement etc, are all examples of serious loss not related to death.

Loss is an inevitable reality in all our lives. How we deal with it is very unique to each individual.
Some will struggle with their loss more than others. Some will experience their loss unexpectedly months or years later, when something seemingly unrelated triggers it. Some will experience loss in waves of pain and relief.

The circumstances of the loss can determine how difficult it is to cope with it. A suicide is a particularly difficult loss to accept. Losing a business through bankruptcy could be devastating

Regardless of what our loss is or how it has affected us, the harsh reality of it will always be there, and we take it into the rest of our lives.

The Ripples of Loss

When a loved one dies we first have to deal with their actual death. This in itself is hugely traumatic. We have the ceremonies related to the burial/cremation, the need to organise any related family/social events, all take precedence at this time.
It is important to go through this process as a buffer to help deal with the initial shock.

However over time we become aware of how this primary loss has many associated losses. The death of parents can lead to the loss of family life even the family home.
The death of a spouse/partner can leave the remaining spouse/partner as the sole provider for a family, both financially and emotionally.
The loss of a pet can mean less socialising as you don’t meet people going for walks in the park as you use to, and the company of the pet is gone.

It is helpful to be aware of all the losses in your life associated with the primary loss. These secondary losses can re ignite the pain of grief.

Stages and Tasks of Grief

Theories have been developed regarding how loss is experienced.
The classic theory by Elisabeth Kubler Ross focused on stages of grief. They are not experienced in a logical linear context but are generally presented in this order: Denial, Anger, Bargaining or questioning, Depression, and Acceptance

Another theory by William Worden reflects a more active, task focused, involvement by the bereaved in living through their grief. He proposes that first we need to come to terms with our grief. The pain of the loss is to be lived and not avoided. By embracing the pain of loss comes the learning necessary to work through it.
The grieved will in time adjust to the new reality. Ultimately it is hoped the bereaved will be able to incorporate their loss into their life in a way that does not prevent them from living their life. This is what our loved one would want anyway.

Practical helps with Loss

Sometime we can feel stuck in our grief. Our mood drops and we just seem to be unable to stop thinking about what we have lost and how that effects us. This is normal and can be helped by some of the following:

  • Write a letter to the deceased
  • Compile a scrapbook about who/what you have lost
  • Join a support group
  • Talk to others about your loss
  • Identify and deal with irrational thoughts
  • Reduce negative coping habits such as alcohol or lashing out at others

The role of Beliefs

When a loved one dies there are big questions which we may struggle with. Why did they have to die? What meaning can their death have now?
Has their spiritual essence gone some where else? If so, where?

We all have our beliefs about these questions. Some will have a definite belief that through a faith in God their loved one is now safe in heaven. Others may have no such belief and consider the collective memory of those who knew the deceased is where the life of the deceased lives on.

Our beliefs around death, the rituals of burial/cremation can be very comforting for some. Indeed some may even be able to celebrate a persons passing as they believe they have passed on to their eternal reward.

Counselling for Loss

In working with a person experiencing loss, counselling is less goal driven and directive.
The purpose of counselling the bereaved is simply to walk with them, help them to understand what is happening to them and ultimately to be able to safely live with the grief.
The person maybe experiencing symptoms of grief that are not obviously connected to the loss. Counselling can help to reassure them that what they are feeling etc is not unusual.

Loss counselling is usually a longer process than more problem specific focused counselling.
It is generally believed that grief counselling is best started six months after the passing.

Counselling a bereaved client is a relational process where the client is free to cry in their sadness, shout in their anger and smile in their memories.

Hopefully, in time, the client will be able to smile with hope for the days to come bringing their memory of whom they have lost with them.

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