Although loss is a nearly universal experience, there is considerable variety in how people grieve. Bereavement is always painful, but some people return to their normal lives rapidly, experiencing uncomplicated bereavement, while others never do.
At Healing Path Counselling Services, loss is defined as a powerful stressor in life. Even those going through uncomplicated bereavement are likely to experience many symptoms of anxiety and depression. Depending on prior losses and on the particulars of the current loss, symptoms of anxiety may be most prominent or may mix with or be overshadowed by symptoms of depression. There is often a sense of unreality associated with first becoming aware of the loss. The griever may refuse to believe it has happened and can feel out of contact with those around them. As the loss becomes “real,” grievers often experience overwhelming waves of sadness (and sometimes anger) that come suddenly with reminders of the loss.
While there is no standard for what is healthy and unhealthy in bereavement, there are some warning signs of poor adjustment. Extensive avoidance of painful feelings and of reminders of the person who has died (or relationship has ended) is not healthy. Coping by avoidance may appear to be working because it minimizes early distress but places the individual at increased risk for emotional and physical difficulties later on.
Clients seen at Healing Path Counselling Services are often struggling with a more complicated grief. This is where a Cognitive Behavioural approach focuses on their thoughts and behaviour, not only about the loss itself, but also about building a new life without the deceased or loss of person. The goals are to help the bereaved reconcile the loss of their loved one, which involves giving them permission to grieve whilst also guiding and supporting them as they build a new life for themselves. Most bereaved individuals who present for help need to:
- Be able to tell their story over and over
- Express their thoughts and feelings repeatedly
- Attempt to make sense of what has happened
- Build a new life for themselves without the deceased/person
It can be easily tailored to help those clients with normal grief reactions where the intervention might have a psycho-educational and guidance focus, to a more structured, long-term intervention for those who are suffering from prolonged or complicated grief. Some strategies used are guided mourning, using imagery and behavioral assignments, as a tool for provoking and safely reviewing thoughts and painful memories.
If you, or someone you know, has suffered a loss and are grieving, please connect at Healing Path Counselling Services.
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