Grief after the death of someone you love is recognised as one of the most difficult experiences you can go through. Generally there is a lot more awareness in our society now about grief and coping after the death of someone you love, than there used to be. At the same time the information about grief can sometimes feel contradictory and confusing. On the one hand grief is often described as unique to each person- we are told that ‘every one grieves in their own way- there is no right or wrong way to feel’. On the other hand we can sometimes feel there is a time limit to grief and can experience pressure from yourself or people around you, to get over it or to ‘move on’ with life. There are often a range of emotions and thoughts associated with grief and loss– sadness, despair, relief, anger, shame, guilt, shock and numbness are all common.
In all grief there can be feelings of separation, searching, and anxiety, and a sense of finding it hard to believe that the loved person has gone. Often in bereavement these feelings of separation are intense and can feel like abandonment. People who are bereaved can feel very alone. Even when they have other people around them, those supporters may not know what to say or how best to say it.
The death of someone you love can sometimes be peaceful and expected. There can still be mixed feelings of sadness and relief that their suffering is over. However sometimes the death may not have been expected but comes suddenly, or sooner than expected. Sometimes too the death is not peaceful … there may be difficult memories of your loved one’s suffering and pain, of watching and waiting through the dying or experiencing or hearing or witnessing about the traumatic way it ended. Whatever your history for many people the death itself can be a profound shock and the distress from this shock and trauma can reverberate for many weeks and months.
Feelings of guilt and the questions of ‘why’ and ‘if only’ are for many the most painful and on-going parts of grief and hard to get past. Sometimes related to guilt can be feelings of protest and anger, at your self, at others, even at the person who has died.
When should I seek Professional Support and Grief Counselling?
Most of the time, people find that the support of family and friends is enough to help get through grief. However it is also not unusual to need more focussed support. Getting the right support at the right time is important. Particular issues around grief and loss can be a reason to seek professional help and support. Some of these include:
Feeling isolated or unsupported. There are many reasons why you may not be able to access support – family and friends may be far away, or not able to give you the support you need.
- Difficult and intrusive memories of the death or dying can be particularly hard to bear; while these can be normal they are frightening to experience.
- Family conflict and break down can exacerbate feelings and reactions of grief and make it harder to cope.
- The bereavement may trigger thoughts and memories of past grief’s, losses or crises. You may feel vulnerable because of previous experiences of depression or anxiety.
- When thoughts, reactions and feelings associated with grief are interfering with your ability to function on a day-to-day basis.
In any of these circumstances it can be helpful to check in with a therapist or counsellor experienced in grief counselling and loss and post trauma care.
There are also a number of ways you can attend to your own self-care through grief.
- Confide in your partner, a trusted friend, family member or work colleague. The support you get from family and friends is often the best help for grief. It is helpful to realise that people around you may provide different sorts of support at different times. Some people may provide you practical help, others may help distract you from your grief, one or two may be able to listen to your thoughts and concerns without giving advice or judging you. It can be useful to make a list of people to call for different aspects of the support you need.
- Taking time to talk about the person who died (as well as about your grief feelings) can also be of help. Feelings of connection and care and ways of honouring and remembering loved ones are important.
- Try to get a good night’s sleep and eat a balanced diet. Night times can be particularly hard after bereavement, particularly if you are very busy and distracted during the day. Feelings of grief can catch up with us in the quiet of the night and feel overwhelming. If this is the case for you it can be helpful to schedule some ‘grief time’ well before your usual bedtime. That way you can give yourself permission to not focus on your grief just as you are trying to fall asleep.
- Keep an eye on and limit substances that may make your grief harder to manage, especially alcohol and recreational drugs.
- Allow yourself to be aware of what you are feeling and thinking without judging your feelings and reactions. Overwhelming sadness, anger, irritation, feelings of despair, feelings of relief, of guilt and responsibility are all normal.
- Undertake regular, light exercise suited to your circumstances. Many people report that walking outdoors in nature on a regular basis is particularly helpful in managing grief.
- Take note of times when your grief feelings may fluctuate – first thing in the morning, or triggers and reminders of your loss, night times can also be hard.
How can I access Grief Counselling in Sydney?
If you feel your grief is getting difficult to manage, avoid diagnosing yourself based on online research. There’s really no substitute for a personalised face-to-face assessment with an accredited professional. There are a number of options to choose from when it comes to grief counselling in Sydney.
You may want to chat to your General Practitioner (GP) about your grief and symptoms and discuss referral options to a mental health social worker, psychologist or counsellor experienced in grief and loss. You can currently claim a Medicare rebate on up to 10 sessions per calendar year for bereavement disorders. There are also a number of therapists achieving great results that don’t bill through Medicare (private therapists) so be sure to do your research. Be as informed as you possibly can be and find a GP who will support you in this process.
For more information on joining Talkingminds’ professional workplace
At Talkingminds we have a number of skilled mental health social workers, psychologists, and psychotherapists working at our Ultimo, inner west Sydney, location, who are experienced in the treatment and management of grief and loss. There’s usually no waiting time and our therapists are available across 6 days (Mon-Sat) including early mornings, afternoons and evenings. Visit our website or contact us for more information on grief counselling in Sydney or to make an appointment.