Loss is a part of life. We may lose people but we may also lose parts of our life that we enjoy. We appreciate these things and their presence in our life, so it hurts when they go away. This is grief. Loss can bring up beliefs that we have about ourselves or life that are important to our way of life. Loss can also bring up parts of relationships that seem unfinished once they end.
Loss is also difficult to feel, which makes grief complicated. Sometimes we don’t want to grieve and so the grief is covered up by another emotion that feels a little bit better. For example, we could be mad at the world for taking a loved one from us instead of feeling the sadness of losing that loved one. If we don’t do the work of grieving, it waits for us unresolved until we do it. It’s common to try to move on with life too quickly and be haunted by grief for long periods of time. It’s almost as if we are given a quota for grieving after each loss that must be completed. If we don’t grieve, our quota will last and it could complicate into something bigger like depression.
Every culture throughout history has had rituals associated with change and death. These customs or traditions can be helpful in these challenging times, as they give us a chance to do the grieving we need to do and often do it as part of a community. If these rituals are not part of your life, you could benefit from coming up with a ritual of your own to help say goodbye.
It is frequently helpful for those grieving to communicate what they may not have had a chance to communicate while the lost person was around or alive. If we aren’t able to communicate with that person anymore, it is still possible to express ourselves and put those thoughts and feelings to rest. For example, writing a letter to a lost loved one is a chance to say to them what we wish we had a chance to say while they were around.
Even if we lose someone very dear to us, if we are able to heal, we can live life fully again. Especially if we give ourselves permission to move on. We could even emerge from the grief having grown as a person, with our hearts more open to the world and all of the feelings that come up for us. Sometimes it is helpful to have a guide or companion on this journey, which is when a counsellor can be a great support.