In 2016, it may seem that the world of entertainment has lost more than its fair share of celebrities, influencers and cultural icons. Notably Dale Griffin (Mott the Hoople), Glenn Frey (The Eagles), Alan Rickman, David Bowie and Otis Clay in January alone, will all have affected a number of us with their recent passing, their pictures having adorned many a bedroom wall in their time, but what about when you lose someone with whom you shared your life on a daily basis?
Losing someone we love is something that most of us will have to go through at some point in our lives, yet because each of us has a different experience and deals with it in a different way, it can be a very lonely time. Friends and colleagues may be unsure of how to console, communicate with and support us, so may avoid contact at a time when the bereaved individual needs support but is least able to request it.
Feelings of loss may be triggered by bereavement, but also by other types of loss. Emotional turmoil can ocurr during and after
- substance abuse
- limb amputation
- other major life-changing events
All of the above can result in grief.
What is grief?
Grief is a natural process reflecting a variety of reactions as we try ot make sense of loss and how it affects us. Though some feelings are uncomfortable or even painful, it is an important part of the healing process to allow us to acknowledge and experience them all fully. The Kübler-Ross model of the different stages of grief, first published by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book "On Death and Dying" helps us to identify the distinct parts of the grieving process and ensure that we are passing from one to another, rather than becoming trapped in and consumed by a particular experience.
The 5 Stages of Grief
Shock and Denial - An inability to believe the facts of the situation; instead clinging to a false but preferable reality, this stage serves to protect the individual from experiencing the full intensity of the feelings of loss. It often manifests itself in practical activity, such as making funeral arrangements or rallying around other bereaved individuals.
Anger - The beginning of the recognition that denial cannot continue and an expression of frustration and a sense of injustice. The individual feels powerless and abandoned, directing their anger at other people, objects or just at life in general and seeks to apportion blame. In this stage, the individual is starting to experience intense feelings which they may be unable to control.
Bargaining - This stage sees the individual feeling that they can or could have changed circumstances to eradicate the cause of the grief. Sufferers often make pacts with deities or loved ones that if they change their behaviour, the inevitable impact of the loss may be in some way avoided. In this stage the individual may become obsessed with how things could or should have been and feelings of guilt of remorse may prevent them from moving through the grieving process.
Depression - This is when the true extent of the loss is starting to be realised and the individual is overcome with sadness and hopelessness. Typical symptoms include the inability to eat or sleep, excessive fatigue, lack of concentration, excessive crying and withdrawal from human interraction. Feelings of loneliness, isolation, emptiness and self-pity can swamp the sufferer to the point where they are unable to carry out normal daily tasks, find enjoyment in anything or envisage a more positive future.
Acceptance - In this stage, the individual embraces the inevitable future with a calmer, more balanced viewpoint and more stable emotions. They acknowledge the feelings they have experienced in various stages as essential parts of the healing process and start to come to terms with their loss, making new plans to build a life around their new circumstances. They begin to dwell on the happy memories more than the sadness of their loss.
Of course, each individual's experience and their journey through the grieving process is unique. Some stages may be experienced at different times or be missed altogether. The length of time each person spends in any one state may vary and events may trigger an individual to return to a state they thought they had exited for good. Only the sufferer can determine whether they are moving through the process and healing, but if someone finds that they are overwhelmed by the feelings of any stage and have not begun to accept their reality after an unacceptable period of time, counselling can help. A good counsellor will assist the individual in exploring their emotions in a confidential and safe environment without censure, until they are able to reach acceptance and find renewed positivity.
Turning to bereavement counselling after experiencing loss of any kind is not an admission of weakness, but rather a sign of strength that an individual is able to recognise when external support would be beneficial and to seek the help they need. If you need to speak to someone contact the reception nearest to you:
Cambridge 01223 233047 St Ives 01480 405859 Peterborough 01733 553166