“The pain of grief is just as much a part of life as the joy of love; it is, perhaps, the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment”
Colin Murray Parkes 1928 – English Psychiatrist
Grief is the feeling experienced after a loss. It is commonly associated with the pain and trauma of a loved one’s death, but it can also take other forms. A person might grieve the loss of a pet, a job, divorce or estrangement of someone close in their life and the impact of illness or injury, such as the loss of future hopes and dreams.
Grief is a normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder. When someone important to us dies, it represents an end to what has been familiar to us, and we must adapt to that new, usually unwanted, reality. Our lives are different after someone meaningful to us dies.
Grief includes the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour. For most people who’ve been in that situation, the primary emotion they feel when that person dies is a tremendous sadness. Part of the sadness is about the irrevocable fact of the death of a loved one, and another aspect is that a miracle didn’t happen to cure the illness and allow more time together.
But in addition to the sadness and other painful feelings involved, a large percentage of people who’ve attended to a dying relative, spouse, or friend over a long period of time, will tell you that one of the feelings they felt when that person died, was a sense of relief. Relief that the person they loved was no longer in pain; and relief at the difficulty of seeing someone they loved in pain and the frustration of not being able to cure them or ease their pain.
Relief is often perceived as a somewhat positive feeling, especially when it comes at the same time as sadness. So, the idea of conflicting feelings, in simplest terms, is sadness on one hand and relief on the other.
Common responses to grief
Grief is different for everyone and can present itself in many ways. You might experience feelings or behaviours that you don’t recognise as being part of the grieving process.
According to the Department of Health, some of the most common reactions to grief are:
- Feelings of disbelief, confusion, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, guilt and relief
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of appetite.
Other common responses to grief can include:
- Loss of concentration
- Mood swings
- Lack of interest in daily life
Grief can raise confusing and complex emotions. For example, some people experience guilt or remorse about time not spent together, others might experience relief that a loved one is no longer suffering. Others might feel irrational anger towards the person they’ve lost, for leaving them, even if they didn’t have a say in it.
All these responses can be bewildering and make it harder to go about your daily life. To an extent, they’re a normal part of the grieving process, and some things take time to resolve.
‘But if your grief is stopping you from living a full life it’s important to get help. Grieving people often feel isolated, because loss is deeply personal. But whatever you’re grieving, dedicated counselling can help you to process and live with your grief and get back your quality of life’
How can I cope with grief?
Grief is a fact of life, something everyone goes through, but that doesn’t make it easier. One of the most important things a grief counsellor will tell you is that you can’t eliminate it altogether.
However, there are strategies you can use to weather the storms, and cope with the ups and downs that come with a deeply felt loss.
How do I know if I need help with my grief?
Grief counselling can help anyone who’s suffering through loss a loss of any kind. It’s a recommended way to help you process your loss. However, there are a few signs that suggest you may need professional help.
- Numbness or dissociation
- Overwhelming depression
- Overwhelming physical symptoms like fatigue or loss of appetite
- Irrational anger
- Withdrawing from loved ones
- Intense mood swings
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- An extended period where you can’t seem to get past your grief.
Kim specialises in Grief Counselling, having many years’ experience as a Registered Nurse working in palliative and critical care, having a Masters in Palliative Care and a Graduate Diploma in Counselling. Kim is passionate about palliative and end-of-life care including the impact of loss and grief. Kim also has a lived experience of loss and Grief.
One of the best things you can do to help process grief is counselling. Professional mental health support, delivered by trained counsellors and therapists, is an evidence-based method for helping people process loss and regain quality of life.
How Can we help?
I provide friendly and safe counselling. I can help you to:
- Work through your pain
- Come up with practical strategies to manage suffering
- Reframe memories so that you can think about your loved one without it being unbearable,
- Learn to enjoy life again,
- Face-to-face and online sessions, including visiting you.