Bereavement and loss
Face to face, telephone, email, instant messaging or webcam counselling
Bereavement and loss
Living with a death can be a horrible experience. Death is a loss … and we will most likely experience many different losses of varying importance during our lives. These might range from:
- losing a treasured possession
- falling out with a friend
- losing contact with work colleagues from moving jobs
- losing contact with friends and neighbours, and the focus of family memories from moving house
- losing some part of our independence through ill health
- loss of expectation/dreams of what we thought would happen in the future, such as getting made redundant and not being able to pay for overseas family holidays, or finding out that a child doesn’t want to have children, thus leaving you with no possibility of becoming a grandparent
Each of those losses will affect each of us differently. One person be as upset at losing their independence as much as someone else might feel the loss of someone close to them dying.
Emotions and feelings
Life can be very hard. Loss is part of life, as is death – and we are all going to be involved with the death of someone/something else at some point in our lives – whether it the death of a person we loved, or someone we didn’t love or particularly like, but who was a key person in our life in any case.
Death is a necessary part of living. Continuing to go on and live our own life – getting up each day, day after day, having experienced that death, can be the hardest thing we have to live though. How we do that and cope with that bereavement can vary due to many things, for example:
- previous deaths that we have experienced
- the stage of life that we are at eg. young person, family, retired
- family circumstances/events that we have already experienced, eg. divorce, job change, house move, change school
We may feel:
- desperately sad
- unable to carry on
- as if our own life is pointless
- beside ourself with grief
- that no one else understands why we are so upset
- as if we can’t get the sadness out of us – not matter how much we cry
Aside from feelings of grief, we might feel:
- just not be aware of feeling anything at all
The death we are living with may not have been sudden. We all know that we are all going to die at some point, and that our pets are also going to die at some point – most likely before we die ourselves. However, in our modern society, with modern medicine, whether we like it or not, we now have the option to choose when our pets die.
You may have been nursing a sick pet for days, weeks, months even years. You may have known for a while that that animal is going to die – sooner, rather than later.
‘Pre-bereavement’ refers to the expectation that a death will happen soon. This can also stir up many emotions, such as:
- confusion – for example, as to what will happen, or when the death will take place – because we can plan when we are going to take our pet to the vet to have it ‘put to sleep’
- guilt – perhaps wondering if you could have stopped the train of events that is now in place – eg. vet visits, medication given, actions you have taken
- loneliness – feeling as if the animal has died already
- detachment from the animal who is dying – to try to prepare yourself for their death you might try to dissociate yourself from them before they actually die
- denial – acting as if the animal is not ill and pretending that everything is ‘OK’
Whilst we know that we are all going to die at some point, an animal who is terminally ill gives us the certainty of death – that it is going to happen, and most likely before our own death.
That means that it is likely that we are going to have to experience their death – that we are going to be bereaved. It may be a death that we were not expecting so soon – or at all.
Living with the knowledge and expectation that an animal is going to die – and die sooner rather than later, can be a huge thing to live with. You could find yourself living with this knowledge for days, weeks, months even years.
As with surviving an animal who has actually died, you may feel a variety of emotions, which may change over time. Everyone experiences things differently. You may take the knowledge of an imminent death calmly and with acceptance, or it might ‘take over your life’, thinking about it constantly.
The constant ticking of time
Grief has no time limit and does not pay attention to clocks. Grief takes it own time, and needs it own time to be worked through – to feel the emotions that we feel with a death.
We might look around us … be faced with having to go into work, to go out with friends, go shopping … it can all seem so unfair. Life is going on around us, even though we may be feeling that our heart has been ripped out …
We may respond to the loss by becoming focussed on our emotions. This might last for days, weeks, months … Things which need doing on a daily basis, such as domestic tasks, or eating, might start to suffer if we feel that we cannot be bothered to do them.
Alternatively, we might respond by not feeling particular emotions but by focussing on tasks to try to forget about how we feel.
We may be able to work through the bereavement on our own, so that over time we learn to function in our daily lives more or less how we did before the loss. We may find that family and friends also provide enough support to help us ‘return to normal’.
However, if you are in need of support, there is help out there – either from the many agencies offering bereavement support, or from counsellors such as myself who offer bereavement counselling.
Copyright © 2019 Angela Fletcher Bereavement counselling and support