Bereavement Counselling in London
Loosing someone we love through their death is hard. Bereavement counselling helps work through your grief.
This is one of those times when things will not change or get better.
The most painful and deep realisation, that you will never see them again, takes time to sink in. Bereavement is an experience that has to be ‘lived’ fully, so that it can be integrated as part of your new identity. This process has been so well rehearsed though the history of humanity that it has got its own model known as ‘Stages of Grief’.
Bereavement is a process that will take you through a whole landscape of emotions; memories; regrets about the past that cannot be amended and resolutions for the future to never repeat the same mistake of not ‘saying’ or ‘doing’. Bereavement counselling helps you to navigate this new landscape and build a new one that adjusts to the loss of what was before.
Historically people in mourning wore black for a year.
This was done for a reason, in fact two reasons.
For the wearer to be reminded that it is not only a need, but vital to go through the grief process, and for those around them to be reminded and mindful to be caring for those suffering the bereavement.
The Five Stages of Grief
There is no prescribed amount of time for each of the stages and they don’t always come in a sequence. In reality it may feel like you are going ‘back and forth’ for a while, but usually in hindsight people agree that the process follows the pattern.
For some, this is the stage when you throw yourself into practicalities of things like: organising the funeral, seeing to the legal arrangements, working through your loved ones belongings & tidying up as well as consoling all the other family members. At this same time, in your grief, you feel numb, as if life were happening somewhere else.For others it is not being willing or having the desire to do anything practical towards the arrangements, as in doing so would be confirming or acknowledging that the loved one won’t be coming back.
In this stage the energy comes back in the form of protest and anger – at the person who died, at relatives, at God. This stage is a healthy release of energy, not to be pushed away or denied.
This is the last attempt to control and reverse reality. We may promise to: be better people, pray more or never to get angry again, in exchange for another chance, to have the person back.
During this stage the reality of the loss becomes painfully clear. The longer the time gone, the more of minutes without them and photos with an empty space where they should have been.
All of the past four stages become part of your identity – ‘I am the person who… lost my father’, ‘has no brother’, and the pain becomes a welcome friend – as long as the pain is there the memory of how much you love them stays alive.
Death is not only about loss
It is the time to ask:
“what happened to my loved one?”
“Where did they go?”
“Is this really it?”
“Do I have any narrative that allows me to come to terms with those questions?”
Often the strongest beliefs and convictions about what happens after death become challenged and revised in the need of the person who has died to be somehow a part of the present. Bereavement counselling helps examine those beliefs and it is often the beginning of a deeper search for spiritual support (see existential therapy).
Death also reminds us about things that we try very hard to avoid thinking about.
Any bereavement is a reminder of our own mortality – and with that, of what have we done with our lives so far, who will remember us after death, who will come to the funeral.
The death of a parent or older person, although seems fair in a chronological sense, puts you next in line – there is nobody, age wise, between you and the next to logically go.
However, the death of a child is a harsh blow on the fairness of life and a challenge to any belief that bad things shouldn’t happen to good people.
Death of a friend is a cold sobering whisper – “it could have been me!”
All those questions and thoughts need to be explored – not because there is an answer but because asking those questions is part of the process of understanding our own relationship with death and dying.
You may not need to have those thoughts, to come to terms with the current grief, but the process of considering them may trigger a deeper curiosity and need for exploration. Existential therapy may help to fulfill those needs.
Counselling in the face of death – can it make a difference?
All the above questions and thoughts, and more, come to the fore when you find out that death is not only imminent – but it is expected soon, such as being given a diagnosis of a terminal condition.
That being said, and however soon it is, it is always sooner than expected.
Having an opportunity to understand your feelings about yourself, about others, about the meaning of life in general, and of your life in particular, can be very helpful and add to the quality of the life you have left as well as to the quality of the death you might have the courage to face. (read more existential therapy)
How to support someone who is dying
Understanding your own relationship with death and dying is necessary to be able to help someone face the same issues themselves. It allows you to approach the dying person with the offering of courage to speak about the unspeakable.
Very often people who are terminally ill are afraid to approach their family members to have the conversations about practical issues regarding the end of their life. This is often because they are told to ‘be brave’ and ‘hold on to life’ and that they ‘shouldn’t talk about dying for fear of disappointing their loved ones’
As if dying required less courage than living!
(Did you know that terminally ill children most often die when the parent nods off, or dash to get a coffee? Having been told to by parents be brave, to hold on – whilst knowing it is time to die – they are waiting for a chance to slip away without making them angry, or disappointed…. )
Counselling will help you understand your own fears about death and dying, give you emotional strength and courage that you can pass on to your loved one, be that the person who is dying or supporting those around you who are also grieving or mourning the death or dying of the loved one.
End of life preparation – for you or someone you care for, or about.
How to support someone who is grieving?
First of all read the above paragraph (How to support someone who is dying) to help you to understand what they are going through.
Then as much as possible offer your quiet presence and listening ear.
Offer your patience for hearing sadness and despair for as long as it is needed.
Refrain from offering solutions to make things better emotionally – there are no solutions, just time.
Do make things better by responding to requests and even guessing how to make things better practically, this is one of those times when taking the kids out to the playground for an hour is priceless.
If you would like support to come to terms with the death or loss of someone, Bereavement Counselling can help
Some helpful articles and advice on coping with your grief & loss or that of someone close to you
The Bereavement Advice site, has some great links to less obvious help such as ‘Who’s who’ what the different functions are of people involved following a death
For those suffering the grief of losing a loved animal, The Help Guide offers some support and advice if you have lost a pet
For people who are grieving the loss of a job and the emotions of grief that can follow, this article from the ‘Resiliency Centre’ around ‘Handling the emotions of losing your job or role‘ might be helpful