Since death is an integral part of life, and we will all experience the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives, it will come as no surprise to learn that grief is a common and natural process.
A bereaved person will need time, and the support of family and friends, to accustom themselves to their loss and reengage with life. But sometimes a grieving person will need the support of a professional and caring bereavement counsellor to assist them to deal with their grief. That is where our experienced therapists step in.
The Stages of Grief
Grief is said to progress through four stages . The 4 Stages of Grieving are Outcry, Denial and Intrusion, Working Through and Completion. Outcry refers to the immediate and often devastating experience of loss. Some people express their outcry emotions vividly and often uncontrollably, whilst others will suppress their outcry emotions. Either way, outcry is a period of intense emotional feeling which is difficult to sustain over the long term.
As a result, outcry tends to move quite quickly into a phase called Denial and Intrusion. This is a period during which the griever oscillates between intervals where the loss or grief is momentarily forgotten (Denial) and intervals where the reality of the loss comes flooding back (Intrusion), often with as much ferocity as the Outcry stage. It is the tasks of daily life that tend to provide the distraction required to encounter periods of Denial.
Slowly, over time, the periods of denial extend, and the intensity of the grief emotion lessens. This is the period of Working Through, where the griever starts to process the loss, and find ways to live in the world despite one’s loss. This is often a period of substantial inner reflection, and also a time to employ practical considerations.
Completion is a time where the memory of the loss is no longer accompanied by intense emotional reactions. When memories resurface they do so with longing and fondness, but without pain. Life starts to feel somewhat ‘normal’ again, despite the loss.
Not everyone experiences all four stages of grief, and if they do, they may not necessarily do so in the expected order. This is because everyone responds to death or loss in different ways, and within different time frames.
Grief or Bereavement Counselling
Some people benefit greatly from the support of a grief counsellor when they are going through the grieving process. Grief counselling works by providing the griever with a supportive and non-judgemental environment in which to talk about their loss, and any emotions associated with their loss. These can include intense feelings of sadness, anger, guilt or emptiness. A bereavement counsellor can also help by providing practical ways in which to re-engage with life after loss.
When a person has difficulty reaching the Completion stage of the grieving process, they can be said to be suffering from Prolonged or Pathological Grief. Since the duration of the grieving process differs for each person, Pathological Grief can be difficult to pinpoint. Extended periods of intense emotion or Outcry can be a sign that a person is suffering from Pathological Grief, for e.g. drawn out periods of crying, manic or inappropriate behaviour, angry outbursts. So can signs of depression or a person’s inability to return to normal life (for e.g. withdrawal from friends, extended periods sleeping or lying in bed, or an extended delay in returning to work or to activities that the person previously enjoyed).
People who have a prior mental health condition, such as depression, may be more susceptible to Pathological Grief. Not surprisingly, the nature of the loss can also impact a person’s capacity to overcome it. Sudden losses, for e.g. death by accident, are often more difficult to comprehend than losses which are expected, for e.g. from death by disease. Of course, this is partly because the grieving process may have already begun prior to the actual death event. The loss of a spouse or close relative will have a greater impact than the loss of less important relationships, and the untimely loss of a child will have a greater impact still.
Help Dealing with Loss
A person experiencing Prolonged Grief needs the help of a professional grief counsellor to help them step through the normal stages of grieving and overcome their loss. Contact Associated Counsellors Bondi Junction today for specialised support in your time of need.