In counselling it is common to hear the words “why does this keep happening to
me?” and that is a fairly sure sign that actually, that thing that keeps happening, is to some extent, and probably unconsciously, in the control of the person asking the question. We create the patterns in our relationships with others, ourselves – often without even being aware that there is any pattern there at all.
When relationships feel like a tangled jumble of yarn, numbers, words, and painful emotions, it can help to stand back and look for the patterns. This can be very difficult alone, and someone who is not tangled up with you can very possibly see the patterns more clearly. They can then point out to you where you may be working on an algorithm that is creating a picture you don’t like, or where you have dropped stitches along the way that you need to complete a picture. In seeing the picture and the pattern more clearly, you can then start to consider which parts of it you do like, and which you don’t. And with that new clarity, that understanding of what you are actively doing to elicit the responses you are getting, you can find yourself in a new position of control. You can go back to the algorithm, and you can tweak it to change the picture slightly (or even substantially) to suit you.
Because life isn’t actually a scarf, you can’t undo all that has gone before, but you can perhaps start to improve it; to make a new pattern that fits the way you live your life now. And with this new understanding of yourself and the way you relate to, and with others, you can add and drop, in ways that make you – and those who are important to you – feel good about the pattern of your relationships as they are now.
Thanks to Fiona Goldman.
However hard it is to move through the stages of grief, it is possible to shift from thinking of grief as “something that happens to you” to “grieving is something you do to heal”.
If you are looking to understand how bereavement counselling can help you, here is a summary of what you might expect from it:-
- To help you, the bereaved, accept the loss by helping you talk about the loss.
- To help you to identify and express feelings related to the loss, i.e. guilt, blame, shame, anger, anxiety, helplessness and sadness.
- To help you to separate emotionally from the person who died and to take into consideration your own needs.
- To provide support and time to reflect on grieving at significant times, such as birthdays and anniversaries.
- To help you understand that the grief process is very individual and to provide continuous support, as necessary.
- To help you understand your method of coping and what works best for you.
- To idenfity coping problems you may be having, to address them and to make recommendations on any further course of action that may be necessary.
- To address ways in which you can stay healthy and keep functioning.
- To help you re-establish relationships with others who may be going through their own grief process in a different way to yours.
- To help you develop a healthy image of yourself and the world.
How do you describe the strange limbo feeling when life slows down and everything around you fades away into insignificance? No-one teaches us what to do when life as we know it crumbles and we are left in the midst of ruin. Society has little time for our pain and yet we cannot see outside of it. We impose time limits and expectations on how long one is supposed to suffer.
“Slowly, as I emerged from my own grief, I made a list of what I learned along the way and through therapy with my counsellor” A. N.
- I learned that my feelings cannot kill me, they will heal me.
- I learned that sometimes it’s ok to just switch off and have a duvet day.
- I learned that getting ‘closure’ doesn’t mean having all the answers and that I can live with not knowing.
- I learned that I can play the ‘blame game’ till I’m blue in the face but that I became a stronger person when I stopped asking “why me?” and start asking “how is this blame helping me?”
- I learned that I have a lot more to learn about myself.
- I learned that the answers I was seeking outside of myself were to be found within.
- I learned that there is nothing as precious as now, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
- I learned that I can never know what each day is going to bring but at its close, it’s up to me to know what the day brought.
- I learned to cherish moments.
- I learned that the pain does gradually subside.
- I learned how to reach out to others.
- I learned that crying is healing.
- I learned there are no rules as to how I should grieve.
- I learned that life is a journey, not a destination.
- I learned to be grateful about things I used to consider as being of insignificance.
- I learned that however long the night, the dawn will break.
We often find that much of our identity comes from our relationship with others. Losing someone is often like losing a piece of ourselves, a limb perhaps. The closer we were to the person we lose the more of our self we need to redefine. How does a woman who calls herself a wife and mother for 25 years cope with losing her family in a car crash? How does a man cope with the death of the “love of his life” whom he was married to for 52 years?
We do not realise how much our lives are shaped by others until they are gone, leaving a residue of emptiness, hopelessness and despair. One of the first things to accept is that redefining your life is a process that involves soul searching, courage and faith and that it takes time. It’s not necessarily a case of totally letting go of who you were for you will always know what it is to be wife and mother or husband and provider or however else you may have defined yourself in your relationship and you will always relive the thoughts and actions that have shaped how you’ve seen yourself until now in your mind over and over again. It’s about being able to adapt when the question “Now what?” arises. Destiny has chosen it’s own course and has ignored your plans. There is no wrong or right path to follow. For now, focus on what you do know about yourself and let that resonate with you for a while until you get your bearings.
In his book “Loss”, John Bowlby writes:
“Because it is necessary to discard old patterns of thinking, feeling and acting before new ones can be fashioned, it is almost inevitable that a bereaved person should at times despair that anything can be salvaged and, as a result, fall into depression and apathy. Nevertheless, if all goes well this phase may soon begin to alternate with a phase where the bereaved starts to examine the new situation and to consider ways of meeting it. This redefinition of self and situation is as painful as it is crucial, if only because it means relinquishing all hope that the lost person can be recovered and the old situation re-established. Yet until redefinition is achieved no plans for the future can be made.”
Each day will bring it’s own set of challenges. Take one step at at a time, it isn’t going to happen overnight. Redefining who you are can take many months and for many people it can take a lifetime. In time, you might find yourself engaging in a memory or thought that you enjoy. It may only be a fleeting moment of ‘peace’ but this becomes your first brick in rebuilding your shaky foundation. Notice what you like and dislike. Try out a new interest perhaps. Counselling can help you to find the courage within if life just seems too overwhelming.
It may seem impossible at first, but step by step as you slowly start to re-build your life and re-visit memories with a mixture of both sadness and joy, you may wake up one day to find you are looking forward to what the day might bring instead of dreading it.