Grief Counselling: Know Your Grief Process
Grief is a process, not a one off event. Grief helps us to let go of the past and adjust to a new life without the person who died, or without the person or thing that is “lost” to us.
It is not an illness, although it may be a very difficult time to go through, and it can be stressful, and full of pain. It is caused by a major life change or transition from one stage of life to another. So grief is a normal reaction to a death or any other loss in an individual’s life.
Grief affects different people in different ways
Grief is the reaction to a loss, and it is not only the loss of a loved one by death. It can also include the loss of goals, hopes and desires, and/or opportunities. Mourning is the outward expression of grief. All people grieve differently.
- thoughts of confusion, disbelief, and wondering if this is just a dream. There may be some sense of “unreality”. Others experience being in a “fog”, or feeling numb.
- feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, loneliness, bitterness, fear, edginess, nervousness, short tempered, and lack of confidence
- Some people will feel shocked and numb in the beginning. Strange and painful thoughts and feelings may follow this first period of numbness
- Sometimes people will “see” the deceased
- Some people will have physical reactions eg, problems sleeping, eating, or not able to concentrate on normal tasks. Some will feel tired all the time, and some will try and find someone to “blame” for the loss
- Sometimes people who grieve will think they have the same problems as the person who has died
These are all natural reactions to grief and loss, and will fade and usually disappear over time. People who are grieving may find that:
- grief goes on much longer than they imagined
- there are no quick fixes or ways to grieve
- each person has to work through his or her grief and in his or her own way. It is not always easy for others to help.
- grief never really goes away, but lessens over time
- grief helps the person to deal with the death. If it is not dealt with it may get deeper and show up later as a mental or physical illness.
How long will grief last?
How long is a piece of string? There is no definite time limit on grief. Each person’s experience is individual to that person. Do not expect to “get over it”, rather work through each of the painful issues as they arise and face them. Acknowledge them as being painful. Some aspects of your loss will stay with you forever.
After 3-5 months many will notice that the severe emotional outpouring is lessened, and that there is not such a “weight” holding you down. You may slowly begin to adapt to having your own life without the deceased, or without that which you have “lost”. This does not mean that you have forgotten about the loss, much less the deceased, but rather, you are moving one step ahead at a time, in your new environment.
For many it might take up to a year or two to move through the grief process and to adapt to a new way of life without your loved one. Be aware that you may be triggered to “grieving again” many many months later or even years later. But it does not mean that you have to start with the same pain as you had at the beginning.
How do I know I need help in the grief process?
If it has been 3-6 months and you still cannot cope with your normal daily activities, such as work, shopping, getting your own meals, driving etc, then you may need to consult a General Practitioner, psychologist or grief counsellor. Or again, it may be some time since your bereavement, and you have been doing OK, but suddenly you find you are not coping. Then it may be helpful to find a therapist who can help you move through this difficult patch.
© 2009 Gillian Evans. All rights reserved.