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Losing someone close to us can turn our world upside down, forcing us through a rollercoaster of challenging and painful emotions.
When we think of grief, sadness might be the first emotion to come to mind. But grief can incorporate other less expected emotions too, such as anger, shame and denial. These types of emotions can take you by surprise, especially when you’re experiencing them for the first time.
Grief is rarely linear. It might be that you start to feel like you’re making progress and feeling “better”, only to be pulled back into the tears and sadness all over again.
Many of us associate grief with the passing of a loved one, but it can also happen for lots of other reasons too. We may experience grief following divorce, suffering a substantial change to our financial situation or when moving through a major life change.
In other words, grief happens when the familiar gets pulled from underneath our feet.
Moving through the different stages of grief alone can be very frightening, particularly in a culture that tends to favour a “stiff upper lip” approach when it comes to expressing difficult emotions.
Whilst grief is a very normal human response, many people benefit from additional support to help identify and express their emotions fully, and find ways of looking forward to the future with greater hope and positivity.
It has been said that there are five distinct stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Despite being referred to as stages, this doesn’t mean they should be expected to appear in a specific order or way. The main thing to remember is that your experience of grief will be unique to you. It is, for example, possible to move through these stages and then find yourself back repeating one again. Or you might spend most of the grieving process stuck in one stage, say denial, for instance, but then find moving through the other stages more easily. You might even experience emotions that have nothing to do with the fives stages listed here at all.
Grief isn’t something we can put in a box. Although certain emotions might be more expected than others, how we deal with grief will always be unique to us.
It is impossible to set a timeframe for the grieving process; everyone copes differently. How long grief lasts for might depend on a number of different factors such as the depth of your loss, your own coping mechanisms and the level of support you receive in the aftermath.
The length of the grieving process can also be different depending on how sudden the loss. For example, grief might be shorter when we’ve supported a loved one through a lengthy illness and had a chance to think over their death and imagine our life without them. In this case, some people report feeling a sense of relief in the knowledge that their loved one is no longer in pain or suffering. But if we lose something or someone very suddenly, the process of grieving might be that much longer as we try to come to terms with what’s happened.
If you’ve lost someone or something that’s precious to you, therapy provides a non-judging space to explore difficult thoughts and emotions and find better ways of working through the grieving process. No loss it too great or small to benefit from therapy, and grief is not something you are expected to work through alone. Start your journey today.