Managing after the loss of someone or something you love is one of life’s greatest challenges. Grief often feels like the earth we stand on has been ripped out from underneath us. We are left feeling an endless array of conflicting emotions that make us physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Loss challenges our most fundamental assumptions about life. That we and our loved ones are safe, that bad things happen but they happen to other people, that everything that happens ultimately happens for a good reason. We are left having to renegotiate life. Our place in it, our identity, our beliefs and our future. What was once familiar is now gone and we must now adapt to a new reality, and most often an unwanted reality.

Grief is the natural response to a loss. When we think of grief, we often associate it to the death of a loved one, but loss is experienced in many ways in life. Loss includes experiences like;

  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of health
  • Loss of a cherished dream
  • Serious illness of a loved one
  • Loss of financial stability
  • Loss of a home
  • Loss of a career
  • Retirement
  • Miscarriage
  • An infidelity within a committed relationship

And then there is ambiguous loss. This is a complicated form of grief, less known and accepted in society. It’s complicated because it leaves little closure, poor understanding, and confusion from unanswered questions. This makes processing grief more difficult.

Ambiguous loss takes two forms:

  1. When a person is physically absent but psychologically present, so still remembered, such as missing children, infertility, termination, death of an ex-spouse and less access to children after separation, and
  2. When a person is physically present but psychologically absent, such as, Alzheimer’s and brain injury.

Sometimes we judge grief as one type is worse than another, but grief is very personal. How and why we grieve is unique to us individuals.

Grief often feels like being on a rollercoaster. The intensity and the erratic emotions from one moment to the next can be overwhelming and can make us feel like we are going crazy. Moving forward after a loss isn’t easy and time doesn’t heal all wounds. It’s what we do in that time that makes a difference.

Grief counselling can help. It can help with:

  • Accepting the reality of the loss.
  • Expressing and experiencing emotions in a safe environment.
  • Overcoming guilt.
  • Learning ways to manage the pain.
  • Identifying and dealing with trauma.
  • Providing a place where you can talk freely about feelings or thoughts you can’t share with family and friends.
  • Assistance in rebuilding a new life and managing the life changes that come from loss.
  • Creating a comforting vision of what life can still look like and
  • Rebuilding a new identity.

Grief often feels very isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. Reaching out for help whether it’s to a counsellor or a friend can remind us that grief and loss are universal. No one is immune. We are all in this together.