Loss comes in many forms, perhaps the most prominent being the loss of a loved one through death. Whether we are prepared for it or not, the grief we feel when we lose a loved one can be immense. A sudden unexpected loss can be devastatingly shocking and we will often experience numbness as a natural dissociative response to loss and shock. Even an expected loss will have an element of shock. And if someone close, who has been diagnosed as terminally ill and suffered for a long time, dies, we may also feel shock and numb as well as relief.
The death of a loved one can hurl us into an unexpected crisis. At a deep level, whether we are aware of it or not, it confronts us with our own mortality. It puts our belief systems and our sense of existence into question, and renders our human condition to be powerless. This can be very unsettling and again cause us to become numb. For some, it is as if their very sense of identity just seems to fall apart. This falling apart often reveals the hidden depth to our own wounding and the common wound we share throughout humanity. And if our grief reveals an inner exhaustion, it could well mean that we simply do not have the energy to hold up the daily façade anymore. This is a point of growth.
Sadness, sorrow, anger, resentment, guilt, pointlessness and powerlessness are just some of the emotions that show up under the umbrella of grief. Repressing our grief, including our own feelings around death, adds fuel for anxiety and can lead to depression. And, it is completely understandable that we may be reluctant to address these issues. However, there is an interesting correlation here: the confrontation with endings and death brings us face to face with the unknown; the unknown brings our focus into the here and now; and the here and now is the only time and place where life can be experienced and meaning can be found.
Grief does not adhere to any particular structure or timing to process it. Sometimes years can pass before we visit our grief. Denial simply means that we are not ready or do not yet have the right support. We are all different and express our grief in our own way and in our own time. When it comes to grief, there is no such thing as “I shouldn’t be feeling this way,” although many express it.
Grief in itself is not a mental or emotional disorder, although it can seem to become so if it triggers deeply unconscious feelings which are then ongoingly suppressed with vigour, causing high anxiety and over sensitivity. It is important to understand that the authentic expression of grief is a sign of mental and emotional health.
As we engage in the grieving process, our feelings around the death of a loved one can also reveal our issues with their life. This is normal and natural. There is no call for judgment. Grief reveals that we have loved, whether we have fully expressed it or not, or have been sidetracked by guilt for the things we did or didn’t say or do; or believe we could have done to prevent the loss. This is often a form of protection from the sense of feeling powerless. The experience of grief, as painful as it can be, opens the heart. An open heart is sensitive, vital and alive to life. Through our grief we have the opportunity to contact the depths of our own capacity to love. Some experience this depth as being close to their spiritual nature, or they may simply feel more connected to life. Many people find a deeper sanity and meaning to existence through processing their grief.
Grief can be experienced over the loss of any significant relationship, personal or professional. Endings of any kind can trigger buried feelings of past losses that are yet to be expressed. If you are experiencing bereavement, grief or loss of any kind and would like some support call 020 8780 9449 or use the contact form.
- Listening to the Body, the Felt Sense Prayer
- World Mental Health Day | A Quiet Mind and an Open Heart