Grief and Loss

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them”

(Leo Tolstoy)

Personal Experience of Grief and Loss

I get this physical pain in my heart. I get it when I know something is not just right and it is compounded by the fact that I want things to be just right. I get it when I know a loss is imminent or the loss has occurred. I feel the ache in my heart, I literally feel the heart, ache. It actually physical hurts. I can’t hold my heart, I can’t touch my heart, I can’t hug my heart but it touches me and it holds a sense of powerful despair over me. The pain stays with me. The worst I find is waking up in the middle of the night or morning and instantly the heart ache is there.

How can that actually be?

Almost simultaneously My stomach goes into a knot. There is this nauseous feeling. If feels both full and empty at the same time. That describes my heart too. It feels hallow, but also the pain fills up every ventricle.  Then, Silence, I feel myself welling up, my eyes close intensely shut, my mouth literally makes the same curvature of a sad emoji and the tears come out. My body tenses up and shutters, my breathing stops briefly, facial muscles I never knew are drawn into action and I violently silently cry. When I do open my eyes, I cannot see clearly through the tears. There is a feeling of profound sadness. This is possibly one of the loneliest, saddest, bleakest times of my life.

I look in the mirror then. I don’t know why I have this compulsion. What I see is redness and tears. My thoughts go to What could have been, Why wasn’t I good enough? Why did I say that? Why didn’t I say that? How did I let this happen to me? Why is this happening? When will the pain stop?

This my  experience of loss and in turn Grief: What’s the image that immediately comes to your mind when you think about your losses?

grief and loss

Grief and Loss and Mourning

Think about what is important to you. Behind that is the potential for loss. How we deal with loss is how we deal with Life. Grief is a natural reaction to a loss that is perceived by every human being in their own personal unique manner. Although unique to the individual, Grief can have common Psychological, Social and Physical characteristics. Grieving is an experiencing process. It is an organic and dynamic entity. Psychological effects can be experienced through feelings, thoughts, attitudes, anger, sadness, guilt and pain. Socially it can affect our behaviours with others. Physically it can be somatic in that it can manifest through ill health and bodily symptoms and even lead to panic attacks. Mourning is relevant in that severs the ties with the lost object/person. The mourning process involves mediators of mourning and tasks of mourning. Mourning can be a conscious or unconscious process. There is an adaption to the loss which eventually leads to a new way of life.

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Types of Grief

There are so many types of grief, Prolonged grief, Delayed grief, Exaggerated grief. Anticipatory grief, Complicated grief, Chronic grief, Cumulative grief, Masked grief, Distorted grief, Inhibited grief, secondary losses in grief, Collective grief, Abbreviated grief, Absent grief, Competency based grief and Disenfranchised grief.


Grief and Loss in Therapy

Grief and loss induce such anxiety that people may try to avoid this unconsciously via psychological defence mechanisms. It is pertinent that grief is experienced as it’s purpose is to express three things, feelings about the loss, protest at the loss and the effects one experiences from the loss. This can be explored and contained in therapy where “grief work” can be undertaken leading to decarthexis. Loss can occur from so many elements, a bereavement, the ending of a relationship, infidelity, unrequited love, reaction to illness, physically or mentally. Death of pets, work related issues,infertility, perinatal death including abortion, adoption, Alzheimers, Phantom loss in regards the death of a parent before a child was born or of a loss limb, death of a celebrity or an innocent victim that resonates with the community, and unreconciled childhood losses. With therapeutic intervention there is an opportunity to engage with the losses and analyse what impact they have had. By assimilating and acknowledging these losses the meaning of them can be re-aligned. As a result there is hope that the affect of the macabre paradox and other losses may be more comfortably handled. There is a constant dialectic in Psychotherapy, as in life, between closeness and separation, attunement and challenge, attachment and loss.

Read other articles in the series ‘Thoughts on Therapy’