All Newsletters : March 2004 : Good Grief... It's Only Natural
Good Grief... It's Only Natural
Many C-BERS clients have had to deal with significant losses in their lives. In this article Clinical Supervisor Dr Mark Sachmann provides some reassurance on the healing qualities of grief as well as providing some tips on how best to deal with grief, or to support someone who is grieving, and when professional support may be helpful or necessary.
Grief is very normal and natural reaction to a loss. Sometimes the loss may be the death of a partner, friend, or family member for others it may be the loss of a pet or even the ability to do something. Grieving is not a sign of failure or not being a man, in fact grieving is a very important process. All of us at some time has experienced the pain of losing something very dear to us. Sometimes the pain associated with a loss can be so overwhelming that we may find it difficult to get through the day.
Each individual’s reactions to loss are unique and as such there is no such thing as the ‘right way to grieve’. Some individuals become increasingly emotionally withdrawn whilst others become angry and may even lash out at those around them. Grieving is influenced by things like the person’s age, sex, culture, religious beliefs and personality. Grieving takes time, it will not be done overnight. We may feel the need to rush it because the emotions and thoughts are painful, but unfortunately this is not possible or desirable.
The person going through a grieving process usually requires time and support from others to work through both the painful emotions and thoughts that accompany grieving. The grieving person will usually experience many types of thoughts and sometimes feels these may appear contradictory and very confusing.
To work successfully through our grieving we need to have some understanding of what to expect. We need to make sure that whilst we are grieving we are attempting to understand how and why we feel the way we do. We need to listen to and be gentle with ourselves.
We need to recognise that the support of our friends and relatives is very important in the grieving process (if relatives or friends are unavailable then consider joining a support group or seeing a counsellor). Sharing our thoughts and emotions can help us understand them as well as taking some of the pressures off ourselves. However, the helper does need to be a good non-judgemental listener. Advice like, “You need to just get on with your life” or “you have had long enough to feel sad, come on snap out of it” may be said with the best of intentions is rarely helpful and frequently makes the grieving person feel inadequate because they can’t stop feeling sad.
The obstacles to successful healing from a grief process are many. Our own reactions to loss may be a very big obstacle to grieving. We may say “I don’t need to feel these thoughts, I’m OK”. Because of the painful emotions often accompanying grief we may decide that not feeling emotions is a better option. However, these decisions usually delay the grieving process and may even negatively affect our lives by making it more difficult to concentrate, to get along with the important people in our lives and to function at work. Unresolved grief can lead to depression, which in turn may require professional help.
However, sometimes seeing a counsellor may make people feel like they are not good enough to work through the process themselves. Or perhaps seeing a counsellor may be frightening. What will the counsellor think? What will they say? But the question remains, when might you consider seeing a counsellor? The check list on the adjoining page may be helpful in deciding if professional advice may be helpful or necessary.
Grieving is about being human and having to deal with one of life’s most difficult journeys: loss. If you are dealing with grief, remember you are in very good company for we have all gone through it.