Grief and Psychotherapy
Grief is a process you go through... a journey. It is a journey where feelings visit you! It is a journey that is different for each person. Each feeling that visits you has its own story, listen.
Don't be afraid of your feeling visitors. In many cultures and myths the symbol for feelings is water... feelings will flow on through, don't try to block them... that is when you get flooded! Entertain your visitors. Get to know them. You can expect some visitors in any order or a whole bunch at once... some may not come at all, others want to hang around for ages. Here are a few well known ones, the first two you won't know have called till they are gone!
Shock. Stunned. Numb. Blank. White. Drained
Denial. No I don't feel a thing. Nothing happened. I'm OK. Feelings?
Pain. Ouch! That hurts! Listen to your pain, like listening to a guest. Pain is the way we know we need to do something. Physical pain tells you what to do with the body, mental pain is a guide to your psyche.
Sadness. Cry. Crying is a massage. Your body wants you to open and massage you with rhythms. It wants you to flow. Welcome your sadness like someone who holds you. Your body is holding your soul when you cry.
Anger. Get to know this one well! Anger is a motivator. Anger likes to be heard. Partner up with this healthy and vigorous energy and it can be the making of this journey. Anger is not blame or violence or aggression, though it can lead to these things. Anger when its on your side leads you to decisions, self protection and care, assertiveness, to going places.
Anger when depressed, leads to a loss of vitality and motivation. Express anger - in writing, in healthy action.
Despair. When despair visits be kind. Don't try to cheer up when the intensity of pain comes in because life is hard. As a psychotherapist I see people in despair and sit with them and say "Tell me about it." and then "Tell me more." and then "Is there more about that?" Then I sum up what is usually a big list of difficult things. Not just practical things but existential and spiritual questions: Is life worth living? Does God exist? These are questions of great value. Asking them is part of having a thoughtful and reflective life.
What ifs? I am not sure if this is really a feeling - but it is as if a guest arrives and keeps asking questions: What if you ask again nicely? What if you had done this or that? What if you had been better? Maybe this a feeling guest in disguise. Is this Anger again? Sadness? Listen to the questions, hear the feelings. Sometimes a reasonable answer is needed. "There was nothing I could have done at the time." "It was not my fault." These inner dialogues can lead to forgiveness, but don't forgive too soon! Let forgiveness come of its own free will, a welcome guest.
So where does this journey lead? Like any journey it comes to an end - but it is not over till it is over, and it is not a much of a journey unless you have strong memories of it, of the good times and the bad. Acceptance is often seen as the end of the grief story. It is a nice place to get to. You may need to name your own closure point, some I have heard are: OK, free, scarred but alive, solid to the core. Find a way of honouring the journey... find a place for it in your life.