Bereavement and Grief
C. S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed wrote “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
When you have suffered a major loss many feelings percolate up and seem to consume every minute of your life, both while you are awake, as well as asleep. These emotions are often confusing in their ranges of intensity, duration and speed of change. You may feel hopeless and sad one minute. During some stretches you may find insomnia your constant nighttime companion, while at other times you find it impossible to pry yourself out of bed. Life feels like a constant battle as you struggle with feelings of sadness, yearning, anger and guilt. These feelings often surface as you ache for a life that has been; feel lost in a world that seems devoid of meaning and purpose; and search for a way to bring focus into your life and move forward.
Your pain and sadness may often seem interminable. Your capacity for coping, your personal resilience, and your support system dramatically impact upon this. When a loved one is sick or has died it is a very difficult and painful experience. While suffering emotionally your ordinary tasks seem unmanageable and challenges appear at every turn. Your life feels as though it has come to a sudden halt while the hands of the clock continue to move for others! They appear to be engaged and happy. You wonder if your life will ever return to some semblance of normalcy.
These are common threads in the journey from abysmal loss to gradual acceptance and a reengagement in life. As there is a wide range of feelings, there is also a similarly wide range of thought processes during grief. One person may think “I did all that I could do,” while another wrestles with feelings of guilt as he thinks “I could have altered the course of things by doing more.” Some are preoccupied with the thoughts that “It was not his time,” or “She had such a wonderful life, why now?” No two people experience the exact same grieving process.
During the grieving process people’s thoughts fluctuate as they work to make some sense of their loss. Sometimes the thoughts are comforting, while at other times they are deeply upsetting. This process brings one to each end of the spectrum of feelings, as well as in the middle! The shifts can be jarring and lead one to question what he is really feeling. The grieving person finds herself uncontrollably crying one moment and laughing in the company of others the next. She may experience intense emotion as she reminisces with others about the lost relationship, then finds herself reexamining her concept of meaning in life. He may opt to engage silently in solitary activities like problem-solving, exercising or hiking, while minimizing emotional expression, yet feel unsettled in this isolated place.
The purpose of grief counseling is to help individuals work through the feelings, thoughts, and memories associated with the loss of a loved one. Although other types of loss can result in grief, grief counseling generally focuses on an individual’s positive adjustment to loss after the death of a loved one.