Grief and Loss
Grief is the normal emotional experience we have in response to life events involving loss. Such events as the break-up of a relationship, separation/divorce, the loss of a job, a failed pregnancy, or the death of a loved one.
After suffering a significant loss, a bereaved person may experience a wide range of feelings, including disbelief or shock, numbness, sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt, depression, despair, relief, helplessness, and/or missing the person who has been lost.
While it is valid and important to not want to be too overwhelmed initially by these feelings, and to have strategies for managing this, sometimes an individual who has suffered a significant loss may have difficulty having and/or expressing his or her grief feelings.
Others around you can inadvertedly and unknowingly support this difficulty. Some people can be derogatory and patronizing, and show a lack of understanding in seeing and/or describing you’re getting upset as ‘breaking down’, ‘falling apart’, or ‘not coping’. They (and you) might think/say that you should “be strong” and “hold/pull yourself together” … thereby encouraging restraint.
Sometimes others will have difficulty themselves with your expression of your feelings, and will say platitudes and clichés suggesting for you to not get upset, or that reduce the significance of what has happened. For example, others telling you about their (similar) experience (“I know how you feel…”), or telling you about other’s similar experience; or telling you about others worse off than you are; or telling you that “it will be alright” … that “you’ll be fine”.
The feelings that you experience when you are grieving are healthy and are a part of the ‘healing process’. Failure to experience and express these feelings will often lead to illness, both physical and psychological. Carrying unresolved grief can inhibit a person’s capacity to move on with his or her life when appropriate.
Seeking the professional assistance of a psychologist can help you to facilitate normal (uncomplicated) grief to a healthy completion. Or it can help with an abnormal or complicated grief reaction. Such as a delayed grief reaction, where there is an absence of grief feelings and the individual continues on as if nothing happened. Or such as where the feelings remain unusually intense (exaggerated grief reaction), and/or persist (chronic grief reaction), where issues remain unresolved and the person cannot move on. In this case, the person can become depressed. Or even more complex is the masked grief reaction, where individuals do not see or recognize the fact that their symptoms and behaviour are related to loss (a loss that may have occurred many years earlier, or perhaps may even have occurred during their childhood).
Sometimes a loss can trigger an earlier unresolved loss and complicate the grieving process. Unresolved grief and loss can have a profound effect on an individual’s day-to-day functioning and behaviour, and will particularly impact his or her relating and relationships with others.
Psychological therapy (particularly psychodynamic psychotherapy) can help provide a safe and supportive environment to help you to connect to your feelings, to understand your feelings, to manage and to work through these feelings, while processing the personal meanings underlying these feelings … to healthily resolve this very emotional and meaningful experience to a point of acceptance.