Many of us would agree that losing a loved one can be one of the most devastating experiences of our lives.
The word bereavement itself comes from the German rauben, meaning to rob. This can be a very apt description of the feeling of having been robbed of the person we have loved. That so many do cope with such losses, and regain an acceptable quality of life, seems to pay tribute to the resilience of the human spirit.
Most people, therefore, appear to navigate through the mourning process with a large measure of success, often with the support of family, friends and loved ones. They don't seem to need professional help. Certain losses also have a feeling of inevitability attached to them. They can still be very painful but there also exists a sense of the natural order of things.
There are, however, other losses which can affect us deeply, perhaps by their suddenness, intensity or the tragic circumstances of their occurrence. No matter how strong we believe we are, there are certain times we may need to seek professional help in dealing with our emotional life. Asking for help is far more a sign of strength than an admission of defeat, as a certain degree of insight needs to be present. After all, why should we endure countless days and nights of unnecessary emotional distress when help is near at hand?
The professional psychotherapist accepts people entirely where they are in the grieving process. Establishing a good client therapist relationship is paramount to progress. It is therefore important to feel comfortable with the therapist. There qualities of understanding, empathy, sincerity and warmth would ideally need to be present throughout the therapy sessions. Strict adherence to formulaic stages and phases of grieving may not always be helpful. Everyone is an individual and therefore grieves differently. So a person's own input and interaction is especially welcome. Usually it is found that as well as intense pain of loss, practical issues such as funeral arrangements, financial consideration, bills, children's education and so on have to be attended to by the bereaved. Therefore, instead of grieving in a certain linear manner they may find themselves alternating between emotional issues and practical concerns.
A competent therapist will be able to empathically tune into their client in a supportive, caring and non-judgemental manner throughout the entire therapeutic process.
This process is carried out at the individual's own pace and issues are explored in a safe environment. Many emotions, besides sadness can arise which can be very confusing for the bereaved person. These can range from anger, even extreme outbursts, as well as shock, denial and guilt etc. This may seem unrealistic to the friends and family of the bereaved.
The good news is that there is often a light at the end of the dark tunnel. If issues are addressed and we can come to terms with our loss, integrating it into our lives, then we can often become wiser, stronger and more compassionate people as a result of our painful experiences.