The first thing I want to say to you is that my heart goes out to you. The pain of grief after a loss is unimaginable. It's only when you have experienced grief yourself that you can even begin to imagine what someone else may be going through. Your whole world has been turned upside down and will never be the same again. Not only that but it wasn't your decision. It was out of your control which means you were probably not prepared for this and you certainly didn't invite it.
So you are left in the position of trying to come to terms with what has happened at a time when nothing makes sense any more.
There are many types of loss that can trigger grief but the most common is a bereavement. And no matter the circumstances, grief can be crippling.
You could spend days, weeks or months feeling like you are in a daze. Barely existing. Struggling to get through each terrible, relentless day. You could become very withdrawn and reluctant to engage with anyone, including family and friends. You may find yourself thinking irrationally and out of character. For example, you walk past a total stranger who is laughing and joking on the phone and you think to yourself "How can you be laughing? Don't you know what's happened?"
You can't be bothered to tell people how you really feel because they won't get it and will probably say something that makes it worse, so it's easier not to say anything. In fact you smile and pretend that everything is fine which makes people think you are 'over it' and all better now. They have no idea what is really going on for you.
I have experienced my own share of grief so far in my life. Over the years I have had to deal with losing both parents, a step parent, sister, best friend and partner.
As a counsellor that specialises in working with grief and loss, I hear a lot of accounts of how people are struggling with their situation, and even though every individual's circumstances are unique to them, it's amazing how there is often a similar theme that runs through the stories.
See if any of these thoughts have ever entered your head:
"I should have done more"
"Why didn't I notice there was something wrong?"
"Surely I should be feeling better by now"
"I feel guilty because I feel ok about it"
"People keep telling me I should be getting over it by now"
"I hate feeling like this but I'm not ready to move on"
"I don't see how I could ever get over this"
"I'm so angry that they left me"
Neither I, nor anyone else, has the right to tell you that you should not think or feel the way you do. Remember, your experience is unique to you. which means that NOBODY knows what it is like for you and therefore should not be trying to tell you what is right or wrong.
If 10 siblings lost their parent, there would be 10 different and unique experiences of the same loss.
Your emotions are valid and entirely appropriate, given whatever your own unique set of circumstances are in relation to your loss. It is also important that you acknowledge them as such.
Here is another example.
A person spends 24 hours a day caring for somebody before they die. After the loss they start to feel guilty because they think they should have done more. It could be argued that it is a crazy thought because there are only 24 hours in a day. But if that person feels guilty, they feel guilty and that is all there is to it. The feeling is there and it's real so there is no point denying it. It is more important to acknowledge it and then deal with it in the best way they can.
So, how do you deal with loss and grief?
First off, there is no rule book to follow. No step by step guide where you tick off each stage and then miraculously become happy again.
I'm sorry if that disappoints you but let me give you these words of comfort instead. "If there are no rules then you can't be doing it wrong".
Your grief is yours. You own it.
Up to now you have been doing whatever you thought was best, just to get through it. If you find yourself struggling that's because it is a damn hard thing to do, especially as you've never done it before. Don't be too hard on yourself.
Although I can't give you magical words of advice that make the pain go away, I can make some suggestions that may help you find a path through your grief.
Try not to compare yourself to other people.
Trust me on this, just because that person lost someone in seemingly similar circumstances to you and seems ok now, that doesn't mean they are. They may just be better at hiding it than you. And so what if they are better? They are not you. They have not had the same life as you. They did not have the same relationship as you. They're doing it their way and you will do it yours.
Don't put a deadline on when you should feel better.
For every person that tells you it takes about 6 months to get over a loss, you will find another that tells you it's more like 2 years and then others telling you it's closer to 5 years and more still saying you never get over it.
One day you will feel ok about it and that day will take as long as it takes.
Try thinking of it as "Moving Forward" rather than "Moving on".
For some people, the idea of 'moving on' conjures up images of going somewhere but leaving things behind. You may never be ready to leave that person or the memories behind so does that mean you can never 'move on' with your life?
Well, if you re-frame it as 'moving forward', perhaps you can, in some way, take the person with you. You will never remove the memories you have so why not take them forwards with you in your life? Your past and the people in it make up part of who you are so why would you want to discard that person and leave those memories behind? Surely it would better to try to accept that you have lost the person but that they will always be part of who you are, and try to move forwards with them. Viewing it that way may make it seem like a more desirable outcome for you.
Talk to someone.
I have never seen research saying it is better to bottle up your feelings rather than share them. However, I also acknowledge that it can sometimes make things worse if you get the wrong reactions or responses, so you do need to consider who you talk to.
As a trained, experienced, grief counsellor, I would never discourage anyone from seeking professional help if they felt they couldn't do it alone. Talking to a person that has no judgement can be very freeing for a lot of people struggling with their grief. The same could be said for those struggling with depression. I have advocated for a long time that if you know a person that doesn't seem to be able to come to terms with their loss, the best thing to say is simply "Tell me what you need". This is, effectively, what I do in the therapy room. I have worked with enough sufferers of grief to know that a massive part of what they need is just to talk and be heard. Not interrupted. Not told what they should do. Just be heard.
If you would like to find out more about me and how I work with grief and loss, visit my website by clicking here.
I can work face to face out of my therapy rooms in Ainsdale or Southport, or offer home visits if you live nearby.
I am also trained to work online via Zoom or on the telephone if you're in any other part of the country or just prefer to have your counselling that way.
You can find out all the information you need about my service at www.beyourselfcounselling.co.uk