Theres no “right way” to grieve

We’re all going to experience grief at some point in our lives but what can you do to reduce it’s impact on your life when someone close dies?

I read somewhere that the “average European” can expect grief due to the loss of a close loved-one (parent, sibling and partner) to impact on their everyday life for around 2 years.  Apparently the duration depends on where you’re born and brought up…grief is different according to the society we live in.  Many people expect those grieving to improve after the funeral…In my experience, that’s when the grief really can get going.

The way I describe grief’s affects to clients is that to start with it’s like taking huge gulps constantly from a cup.  The gulps will, over time turn into sips and the time between sips will get longer.  To start with everything reminds you of the person who has died.  Their favourite music, books, films, even colours.

So what can you do to limit the inevitable affect on your life?

This has become very personal to me this year.  I’ve lost my Father and my Brother in Law recently.  The first after a stroke and then almost a year of severe dementia, the second to a very sudden and unexpected heart attack.

You’d think the grief I’d feel after a year of watching my Dad deteriorate would be less…it wasn’t. 5 months later and it still catches me out.  A song, a joke he’d have liked, an interest we shared; they can all stop me in my tracks…but it’s getting easier and now the thoughts are mainly fond and positive.

The sudden loss of my Brother in Law was different.  I’d known him since I was 7 years old and my primary focus has been on the way his death impacted on those closest to him.

What do they have in common?  They both transported me back to early childhood memories…and emotions.  My outlook on life changed with each loss.  Firstly, with my Dad.  I made some big changes in my personal life; bringing those close to me even closer.  I proposed to my partner (having said I’d never marry again) and with my Brother in Law, I started to reassess my habits and goals in life (he was only 7 years older than me.)

Perhaps that’s the answer to dealing with grief…learn from the loss, change your priorities and review your future.

I deal with extended grief at the clinic weekly.  People who are locked in grief beyond a timescale that would seem “reasonable” to others.  People whose lives have either stopped at the point of loss or who have made grief their primary focus in life.

Perhaps that’s the key…our focus.  Grief has a way of turning our thoughts inwards and if we’re not careful we turn grieving into our life’s work.  Not that this is ever intentional, far from it!

How do we change this focus?  I’d say we need to reassess our lives, our goals, our habits even.  Do they work in this new life? Are we living or just going through the motions?

This is where therapy can help and not just as a vent for our sorrow, but as a positive and forward-thinking tool to create a new life.  Holding onto good memories, learning from the bad and starting to reset ourselves for the future.  This should not be a long and drawn out experience…sometimes talking too much about our sadness can keep us tethered to the past.  A short and positive programme is best.  Focusing on where we’re going and how we’ll get there.

This is both helpful to the living and a gift we can give to those who’ve died.

If you’d like to discuss your issues with me, please do call or text/email today.  It’s the first positive step towards healing following a death and even a phone call or an email will make you feel just a little better.

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