The psychology team at Armchair Psychology Practice talk a lot about the issues that affect our clients. The one that is overwhelmingly at play is grief – in all its forms. Whether there has been a death of a loved one, or someone we love is dying; whether chronic illness or disability has changed the way life will be; whether a relationship is ending or has come to an end – even children going through life’s stages and moving away from parents – grief is a natural response.
The foremost thought is always, though, if grief is so common, felt by us all, and is so natural, why do we find it so hard to deal with? Why do we find it so hard to reach out and take comfort, to accept the help offered? And, conversely, how is it possible to see someone grieving and yet walk away? Our worlds have got too busy, people are too isolated. Psychologists know that the best way to deal with grief is to talk about it, to cry, to shout, to mourn. It is a shame that the common wisdom is that we should “Soldier on”, even when that is the worst thing to do. Grieving is NOT the same as wallowing (and so what if it is, it is necessary!)
The problem with grief is that it makes us stop. It takes over and insists that we deal with the feelings. Many people try really hard not to allow grief to interfere with their ongoing life tasks. They think they are being strong when they push them away, or take medication to stop the feelings and allow themselves to sleep. Psychologists know that that just doesn’t work in the longterm. We might feel better when we avoid the feelings, but grief has a way of catching up with us and forcing us to face our losses.
The people whom we see in our practice are sometimes those who know they need to talk and to be sad, and find ours a safe place to do that. Often, they are finding it hard to get on with everyday life because they are so sad, and don’t know how to take the time for themselves to grieve. Then there’s the other group – the complicated grief – people suffering emotionally and being so distant from the loss that they sometimes are not even aware of why they feel so terrible. Then our work as psychologists is to carefully, sensitively, help them face the grief of the loss. Once they reconnect with all the feelings they have pushed down hard, they will discover their tears and then be free to move forward in their lives.
When you allow yourself to mourn, you can keep hold of your loved one in your heart, and continue on in life, being functional and okay.