Bereavement is a normal part of life; whenever we loose something or someone important to us, we will naturally feel bereft. It is not confined to loss of a loved one, we can feel bereft by the loss of a beloved pet, a job that we love or prospects for the future, for example. It is also natural to feel bereft by the things we didn’t have, such as a loving childhood, children of our own, missed opportunities, etc.
Nevertheless, many people don’t know how to approach someone who is bereft, nor is everyone able to manage their own feelings of bereavement when it happens to them. The reasons is that bereavement is uncomfortable and many people have a natural tendency to move away from uncomfortable emotions.
Many people believe is that grief is a single emotion which, if ignored, will eventually go away. Others find it impossible to move on and their sense of self becomes defined by their grief. Whatever your personal experience of bereavement, it may help to think of grieving not as a stepwise journey in a particular direction, but like the tide that ebbs and flows. Grief is a complex experience defined by a plethora of emotions, the most common of which are shown below.
You may find yourself visiting these in any order, experiencing more than one at a time, revisiting some several times and re-treading old ground. When these feelings gradually settle down over time, which could be hours, days, months or years, it means the grief is being resolved.
There is no time limit to grief resolution, but it will often happen naturally and at a speed that is unique to the nature of the bereavement and the person experiencing it. But sometimes, some or all the feelings of grief don’t seem to diminish, or they seem to return periodically, and the quality of the bereaved person’s life is reduced over the long term. This kind of grief is termed complex grief and it can affect a person for many years.
If you find yourself affected by grief, or if you feel you may be experiencing complex grief, counselling may help you unpack the seemingly impenetrable knot of emotions, make sense of them and allow your grieving process to run its natural course. When we lose something or someone close and special to us, we won’t necessarily “get over it”, but I do believe in the possibility of adjusting to the loss and finding peace.