Coping With Loss

Loss of a loved one can be difficult: firstly, we face the issue that they won’t return. This may spur on feelings familiar to those we experience during a relationship break – up. The pain related to abandonment and fears about the future can be, in this instance, relatively minimal because the person in question hasn’t physically disappeared. Hopes about them resurfacing sooner or later can serve as both a coping mechanism and a stick we beat ourselves with but overall, the loss seems somewhat temporary. In the case of bereavement, we must deal with being left forever. This can be very challenging to come to terms with and is a common focus of any advice we receive.

However, often forgotten are the feelings we encounter alongside the fact a person important to us has passed away; sadness, fear, anger, guilt or longing. These tend to surface differently for everyone and due to our vulnerability at that time, we may experience them more deeply than we would in other situations. Connecting with these feelings could be difficult because of our innate avoidance of anything ‘negative’. Showing anger has been banned since playground where we quickly came to realise that our tears would lead to immediate reassurance and warmth from adults, as opposed to punishment. Repressing it would seemingly benefit us in later life with our fears of being abandoned by those surrounding us less and less likely. Unfortunately, it doesn’t disappear. We harvest it. If it’s not expressed, we become a ticking time bomb and our relationships with other people suffer more profoundly, despite our best intentions. Some of us also inhibit sadness. In a world where ‘boys don’t cry’ translates to ‘strong people don’t show tears’, how can we allow ourselves to outwardly communicate sorrow? More importantly, how can we encounter grief without our emotional reactions to it? Is it possible not to feel upset when someone we love passed away?

Our individual experience of bereavement plays a crucial role in our overall wellbeing. Offloading onto others may seem tricky or impractical – after all, they are under no obligation to suffer along with us. What may seem surprising is that open and honest conversations about what we are going through may, in fact, deepen our relationships. Parallel to such dialogue, it is worth engaging in psychotherapy where our self – expression is encouraged and a thorough exploration of our emotions will help us stop feeling guilty about what is happening. A strong therapeutic alliance provides a non – judgemental, safe space essential to self – discovery, development and, ultimately, our health. It will also facilitate effective communication with the outside world. Often, bereavement brings questions of our own mortality. The therapist will help facilitate this, welcoming your specific spiritual beliefs.  Accepting the loss of a loved one is an extremely complex and challenging process. Engaging in therapy will make this process shorter and more fulfilling.