Why Do People Seek Counselling for Grief?
Mourning and Grieving
Any major loss in life, particularly the death of a loved one, involves the experiences of mourning and grief. These are experiences of a broken heart, not a broken brain. Mourning and grief are normal and natural emotional reactions to a broken heart, and are unique to each individual. ~ John W. James and Russell Friedman. The Grief Recovery Handbook.
Mourning is the immediacy of the pain from devastating loss, an experience of severe emotional trauma, numbness; deep sorrow, engaging in erratic but comforting rituals (searching for old photographs, reading letters and e-mails, visiting familiar places) ,a seemingly immutable sense of yearning, and, often, a sense of deep regret, wishing for different, better, or more. It is a deep wounding, of the heart. Many describe it as in a place of 'back' or ‘before’.
~ Betty Jane Wylie, New Beginnings.
But, as the blood clots, the first scar tissue forms, surface tenderness eases, and the deep bruises of mourning begin to unlock, we come to grieving. Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior. Again, for emphasis, grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind. Therefore, the feelings one has are also normal and natural, even when much of society gives us messages that these feelings are abnormal, unnatural, and… unwelcomed.
Despite our socialization to “be strong” (3 days leave from work and you’re back and ‘OK’, ‘fine’…) ideally, grieving is experienced as a working through, a coming-to-terms with, reconciliation, an emotional cleansing, and the gathering of strength and skills to move forward. There is an intrinsic sense of ‘recovery’.
All losses are experiences at 100% intensity when they occur. All of this is normal…but it doesn’t feel normal. For many grievers there is a lingering sense of incompleteness, grief feels unresolved. Words have gone unspoken, feelings have not been shared. Love (or less-than-love) has not been expressed. We receive the message "time heals all" over and over again... Flesh wounds and bones do not heal without attentive salves, braces and antibiotics. Broken hearts do not heal without the attentive nurture, "salve" and care. Time does not heal all. Over time, the pain, the wound, of unresolved grief is cumulative. Whether caused by a death, divorce, or other type of loss, incomplete recovery can have a lifelong negative impact on a person’s capacity for happiness. We have not experienced recovery from our grief.
What Do We Mean By Recovery?
What do we mean by "recovery"? John James and Russell Friedman describe it succinctly:
- Recovery means feeling better.
- Recovery means claiming your circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming you and your happiness.
- Recovery is finding new meaning for living, without the fear of being hurt again.
- Recovery is being able to enjoy fond memories without having them precipitate painful feelings of regret or remorse.
- Recovery is acknowledging that it is perfectly all right to feel sad from time to time and to talk about those feelings no matter how those around you react.
- Recovery is being able to forgive others when they say or do things that you know are based on their lack of knowledge about grief.
- Recovery is one day realizing that your ability to talk about the loss you’ve experienced is indeed normal and healthy.
- Most importantly, recovery means acquiring the skills that we should have been taught in childhood. These skills allow us to deal with loss directly.
Obviously, recovering from a significant emotional loss, whether it be a death, divorce, estrangement, et al (sic), is not an easy task. Taking the actions that lead to recovery will require your attention, open-mindedness, willingness, and courage. The skills of grief recovery will heal your heart when it is broken and in turn allow you to participate 100% in all of your relationships. With the knowledge and freedom brought about by completing losses comes the additional benefit of allowing you to love as totally as possible. We will again become 'life-oriented'
Toby Talbot, in "A Book About My Mother", describes a time when she tried to console her four year old daughter who was weeping bitterly about something that had upset her:
“In trying to comfort her, I brushed the tears from her cheeks. Her sobs immediately converted into an angry outcry: 'Give me back my tears!'”
Give me back my tears...
To Successfully Cope With Your Personal Grief Requires That You Decide:
- You will live
- It’s okay and quite possible for you to have a full life after your loss or losses
- You can take charge of your own grief
- Grief work should not be done alone. You need to talk about your experiences and your feelings
- Although you can learn from the experience of others through sharing your grief, strength and hope will come from within
- You will reach the place where there are less tears and more laughter. You will create a new normal for your life
- Making these decisions will help you get back on top of life again!
(Adapted from Life After Loss, Bob Deits, M. Th.)
It may be at this point that I can help. I Will Walk With You as we gently and intentionally journey through your grief story, bringing completion to your pain and isolation, and moving beyond them; releasing the past, reorienting to your future, and reconnecting to your present.
9 Week Grief Counselling
Your experience of mourning and grief is the normal and natural reaction to any major loss, and is unique to you. You are not pathological, or 'sick', and, while your heart feels broken, you do not need fixing. You are a griever. The experience of your Grief Recovery is a journey and does not need to go on indefinitely. I propose working together, for an hour once per week, for a total of 9 weeks. We will first tell and hear your story, and acknowledge your pain. We will reframe many of the unhelpful (and hurtful) messages that you have been taught and learned about grief and grievers. We will reflect on the fundamental distinctions between pervasive grief and normalized sadness, between debilitating guilt and healthy regret. Together, we will take small decisive action steps that will encourage and enable you to say the unspoken words, feel the unfelt emotions and move progressively toward the completion of your grief journey. Completion does not mean forgetting. It means healing, bringing to conclusion the pain and confusion and isolation you are experiencing so that you may go on, from here, from now, to a renewed sense of strength, wholeness and happiness.
You are a griever, fractured between your head and your heart. You are normal and your experiences are natural. Let's work together to complete this grieving time so that you may become a whole person once more.
John and Russell observe that all relationships have aspects of familiarity, whether they are romantic, social, familial, or business. What other losses cause similar conflicting feelings? While death and divorce are obvious, many other loss experiences can produce grief. Among them are:
- Death of a loved, or not-so-loved one
- Loss of children, through death or distance (emotional, geographical)
- Death of a former spouse/partner
- Death of a pet companion
- "Blue" Holidays
- Legal problems
- Empty nest, or children starting school
- Coming out as a whole gay or lesbian person. Transition into the LGBT community
- Retirement, resulting in a loss of familiarity, community, purpose
- Major health changes - loss of independence, through age, illness or frailty
- Loss of community -faith, club, place of employment, extended family
- Loss of income/lifestyle through major financial changes
- Loss of friends -through conflict, divorce/separation
- Moving from one community to another
- Loss of purpose
- And many other losses.
Please contact Tim for further information, or to book you complimentary introductory consultation: