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A Different Way To View Grief

Dealing with loss is something that most of us have to encounter at some point in our lives. Whether it is the loss of a relationship, a job, a period of our life or the death of a loved one, if the loss is significant to you then it can feel overwhelming.

Your whole life has changed and will never be the same again. There are many views on how the grieving process works and everyone's own experience of grief will be unique to them. However, having had many clients come to me struggling with loss and grief, there seems to be a common thread that runs through many of their own particular struggles.

One of the hardest aspects of dealing with grief can be the sense that things are not going to be ok. In the midst of the upset, it's hard to believe you will ever be happy again, knowing that the loss is real and permanent. Life cannot go back to how it was because one of the elements of that life is no longer there.

People may try to comfort you by telling you things about 'time being a great healer', but whether it's true or not, it doesn't take any of the pain away, and it's how you feel right now that is the hardest part to cope with.

Sometimes it can be helped by slightly adjusting certain language that you use to describe your situation. You can read more here about how it can help, for example, to see things as 'moving forwards' rather than 'moving on'.

In a similar way, it can help to view your situation in a slightly different way that makes happiness or progress seem more achievable and less daunting.

Here is an analogy of grief that many people have told me they have identified with, along with a way to perceive it that may make you feel more hopeful for the future.

Imagine that your life up to now is represented by a sheet of A4 paper. On that paper are all the things you have done in the past, your experiences and memories, plus the things you do now in regards to working, living, spending time with friends and having fun.

But then the loss happens. A loss that is so significant that it creates an intense feeling of grief. This grief is represented by a huge black circle on the paper, as shown in the diagram.

The grief is so consuming that it almost covers the piece of paper entirely. There are just small areas in the corners that can be given over to things like life, work, friends and fun but the vast majority of everything else is swamped by the presence of grief.

This should be no surprise. If the loss is that significant then the grief will invade pretty much all of the paper and not leave much of it untouched by the sadness. It seems all-consuming.

Now think how it feels if someone comes in and says something like, "Don't worry. You will feel different over time. It won't always be like this". For many people, this sounds like a suggestion that the huge black circle will shrink. This idea that the circle will shrink carries an implication that the loss won't always be this significant. That the blackness will get smaller because "this loss won't always matter as much".

And this is where many people have a problem, especially if the grief is a result of the death of an important person. How on earth can you be ok with the idea that there may come a day when you don't care as much about this loss? You will never 'not care'. For many, this idea that they may care less about this, is unthinkable. Even offensive.

So if your mindset is that you will never see the loss as anything less significant, surely, then, the black area will never get smaller? So you will never feel any better than you do now. The all encompassing grief that covers everything except the small corners of the paper will never change.

Here is the opportunity to see the same situation in a slightly different way.

Maybe you would feel more comfortable with the idea that yes, you will always care about this person or loss. You will never reach a point where the event is not significant. You will never 'not care'. The area of grief that comes with that loss will never shrink. It will always cover the same area.

However, that piece of A4 paper underneath it doesn't need to stay the same size. As time goes by and you function slightly more effectively, it can grow. The black area does not need to reduce if the paper of life is expanding around it. Eventually the grief will inhabit a smaller portion of the entire paper. It will still carry the same gravity of importance but it does not invade all areas of your newly enlarged life.

With this concept you allow for the idea that you can feel the same way about the loss while still finding a way to live that doesn't diminish the significance of the loss. Whenever you think about the loss and consider it's implications, you are seeing the black area on a much larger piece of paper, so the feelings it evokes in you will be different compared to when it almost smothered the entire page.

You don't have to 'care less', but instead focus on expanding your life up to A3 size and beyond.

If you are struggling with grief or loss and feel you would benefit from counselling, visit to arrange a free, no obligation initial consultation.

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