When it comes to Grief, let the pain come.
For the past two years I have been working as a volunteer for Cruse Bereavement as part of my Level 4 Counselling Diploma.
Having also lost my mum (in my twenties), I have also experienced the long and painful journey of grief first hand.
I have always been someone who wears their heart on their sleeve, and find it incredibly hard to keep my feelings and emotions inside, so when a client tells me that they are struggling with their grief, the first thing I ask them is…
“What is their support network like outside of counselling?”
I then start to see a familiar pattern arise, as I am met with similar responses.
“I don’t want to burden people with my problems.”
“They don’t understand and just want to put a positive spin on things.”
“They tell me I should be over it by now.”
“I must not cry in front of the kids.”
Death is such a taboo subject in our society, and some people will even go to great lengths to avoid someone who is grieving because they don’t know what to say or how to act around them. They may even feel a sense of responsibility to try and make that person feel better.
I make no exception to this.
Before I worked as a counsellor, I had a friend who lost her baby (at 22 weeks pregnant).
Even though I had suffered bereavement myself, I was so afraid to go round and see her.
I was scared I wouldn’t know what to say, or I would just blurt out something stupid to try and make her feel better, and she would shout at me for being so insensitive.
Eventually, I did pluck up the courage to go round and we cried together and looked at the photos of her beautiful baby boy (together).
I didn’t need to say anything because just being there was enough
Thankfully I have now learnt through my training at Cruse, that the best and only thing we need to do for the bereaved is to just be with them.
No Afterlife Stories.
No Positive Quotes or Mantras.
Just look them in the eyes and show them you are listening.
You may think that this isn’t enough, or it doesn’t feel like you are doing anything, but by listening, you are allowing that person to process their shock, their anger, their guilt, and even the painful images (they may have had to of witnessed in the final few weeks – leading up to their loved ones death).
If a person doesn’t feel listened to, or if they have been shut down most of their life, (by other people such as their parents or other authority figures) then they may learn to suppress their emotions, and this could eventually manifest into anxiety or depression.
“If we feel we were not helped in life – it’s because we were not listened to.”Anon
What many people don’t realise when it comes to grief (and something I tell anyone that is struggling to express their emotions) is that –
Crying and breaking down is the recovery.
If we try and stop the crying, we are merely putting a plaster on top.
The more we confront our grief, the more we move towards the acceptance stage.
If expressing emotions is not something you are used to doing, then writing things down or saying it out loud to yourself (in the car on the way to work for example).
Anything but keeping it in!
Some even find that exercise helps. Many people will find that going for a long run will help bring out the tears.
We must stop the stigma around crying,
Crying is not a weakness. It is a strength!
It is actually very healthy to cry and release the toxins and stress from our body.
Explaining this to our children is also very useful. If they see mum and dad crying for example, they may feel a sense of panic – but explaining that this is perfectly normal and healthy will allow them to express their own emotions going forwards.
The reason why counselling is so effective is not because a counsellor is telling you what to do (because you already have all the answers) – but because when we say things out loud, (in a space that feels safe and non-judgemental) our minds can make better sense of everything that seemed jumbled up and confusing.
We can therefore process it better and figure out a way forwards.
Many people struggle with the guilt they feel, and that maybe they could have done more.
They also struggle with the final images of their loved one (especially if their loved one died from cancer).
But the more we suppress these images and feelings of guilt and anger, the more they will linger.
Many people will talk about the painful images just once or twice, and they will already start to notice a shift, as the images don’t seem so raw and distressing.
It’s the same with the feelings of guilt. Say it out loud.
Say whatever it is you feel guilty about.
Allow yourself to feel that way but also learn to forgive yourself.
We are all human after all.
Life events lead up to how we deal with grief, and past events, childhood issues and even relationship struggles may resurface when we are grieving. This is all completely normal.
It’s important that we allow them to come forwards because if we keep suppressing our emotions, then we stay stuck (in life), unable to be truly present and happy.
Grief will help us grow as a person.
We become more resilient and are able to cope with other losses in the future.
This blog was written by Becky, student counsellor.
Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.