Loss & bereavement counselling information

Most of us have suffered the loss of a loved one, and as we age, it is likely that all of us will. Relationships are an essential part of what we, as humans, need to survive, and as we go through life, we will develop strong and significant connections with not just people, but also places and possessions we encounter along the way.

Grief is the emotion we feel when an important relationship ends (or is interrupted). Commonly the ending is caused by death, but grief can also be felt when a relationship is lost as a result of divorce, relocation, fire or  theft. We don’t grieve for all lost relationships; only those that have, for one reason or another, become meaningful to us over time – people we love or admire (family, partners, friends, teachers), and places or things we treasure (a house you grew up in, a photo, a family heirloom). When these people or things are gone, we often feel grief.

People grieve in different ways. Some people grieve publicly and openly with great shows of emotion, others grieve silently and keep their emotions hidden from others. For some people, grief is easily overcome, for others it takes a long time to pass through the grieving process. Each individual grieves in a way which suits them, their emotions and the extent of their loss.

Grief begins when someone or something we care about is lost to us. Grief ends when we have recovered from the heightened sense of loss for the other person or thing, and we find that we are again able to function normally without them. This does not mean that we stop missing the person or feeling sad when we think about the loss we have experienced; it simply means that we are able to get on with our lives without feeling crippled by that loss. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

The stages of loss

grieving process

Psychiatrist Mardi Horowitz divides the pattern of grief into the following stages:-

OUTCRY:  When the loss if first discovered or acknowledged, people generally experience a feeling of initial outcry – they may scream or yell, cry or collapse, or they may suppress the ‘outcry’ and keep it inside. The outcry is a feeling of intense devastation and shock. It is generally difficult to sustain and does not last long.

DENIAL & INTRUSION: After the initial outcry, people experiencing grief will often enter a period where their emotions alternate between feelings of ‘denial’ (where they do not think about the loss) and ‘intrusion’ (where the loss is strongly felt). In this stage, people often find that their feelings of acute grief are distracted by other thoughts or activities which stop them from thinking about their loss for short periods or moments. These are usually everyday thoughts or activities, like watching tv or dressing a child. These periods are often interspersed with periods where the loss is recalled and the grief returns in an intensely felt manner. It is very normal for people to rotate between these two extremes – engaged with their grief and loss at one moment, disengaged the next. This is an important stage of the process, because the distraction and disengagement helps to break up the devastating nature of the grief being experienced.

WORKING THROUGH: Over time, the oscillating between denial and intrusion slows down and people spend less time thinking about the loss, and less time experiencing a profound sense of grief over that loss. During this stage, people feel less and less overwhelmed by their loss (this might take days, weeks or months to happen). Most importantly during this stage, people start to work out ways to manage without their lost relationship – they might start dating again, make new friendships, find new hobbies or spend more time with their family or friends.

COMPLETION: At some point in the process, the grieving completes itself enough so that life starts to feel normal again. Memories of what has been lost stay, but the feelings associated with that loss are less painful and less intense – they stop interfering with normal life.
Talking through your loss and grief with a professional bereavement counsellor or psychologist can be beneficial to the grief process, helping you to process the grief and reach completion.

Prolonged grief (or pathological grief)

Sometimes a person finds it difficult to successfully ‘complete’ the grieving process. A sudden loss might mean the grief is more difficult to resolve because there has been no time to prepare for that loss. The loss of a principal relationship (such as a spouse, partner, child, parent or best friend) is generally more critical and felt more deeply than the loss of someone less close or relevant to one’s life.

The fairness of the loss is also relevant to the grieving process – it is easier to accept the loss of an aged parent than the loss of a child. Death by disease seems easier to comprehend than death by some random incident. Losses that confront a person’s sense of fairness in the world are generally harder to manage.

The amount of support received by a grieving person is also highly relevant to the ability of a grieving person to ‘complete’ their grief. Indeed people who are without close social networks often have a much harder time getting over their grief. Talking to a grief or bereavement counsellor can be an excellent way to seek extra support during your grieving process.

Sometimes many years have gone by and the grief from a significant loss is still unresolved. This unresolved grief may not be obvious to others, but the grieving person might still feel that the loss is impacting their lives – it might be stopping you from forming new relationships, or making you feel overwhelmed with sadness. In these situations it is important to seek professional help in the form of counselling with a grief or bereavement counsellor.

How does bereavement counselling work?

Typically a counsellor or psychologist will encourage the grieving person to share their thoughts and feelings about the loss, and encourage them to engage with life in a way which helps them to recover from their grief. Psychologists generally agree that medication is not an appropriate way to deal with one’s grief as they can interfere with the emotional processing of the loss, as well as risk addiction.

Loss can be devastating, and grief is always painful. However grief is a normal reaction to significant loss and, with the right support, it will pass. If you or someone you know is grieving (either from a recent or past loss), don’t be afraid to seek support from a bereavement counsellor as a way of helping you through this difficult time.

To enquire about professional bereavement counselling by qualified Counsellors & Psychologists in Sydney call Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney. We welcome your enquiry.


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