Recovering from loss
’T’is better to have loved and lost
then never to have loved at all’
Alfred Lord Tennyson
We all suffer loss throughout our lives and each loss is felt with the same degree of pain, although the extent and the duration of that pain may differ. There are losses which are easily recognised by our friends, family and community, such as bereavement, divorce or separation. There are other losses such as freedom, loss of health, loss of safety, early retirement, losing a relationship with a loved one even though they are still physically present, which leave many people feeling isolated as they don’t wish to appear selfish, or upset those they love.
For all of us there are some losses we choose to accept and some losses which are forced upon us by circumstance, but that does not mean that we do not suffer grief at what might have been, what we would have liked to be different. Grief is not simple, nor rational, it is more often tidal waves of conflicting emotions all too painful to endure. How often have we comforted someone after a bereavement with the words, ‘She lived a good life.’ ‘He is not suffering any more’? Or rushed out as parents to replace a lost pet, or a lost toy, while our child was at school?
We have all grown up being ‘taught’ how to handle grief from a very early age. “Big boys don’t cry.’ ‘Don’t be a cry baby’ and we have watched how the grown ups around us manage their own grief, often by ‘being strong for the children’. Ella Wheeler Wilcox a poet once wrote ‘Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.’
But grief is as normal a part of life as loss is and so to deny it, or suppress it, often requires quite extreme behaviours such as over eating, drinking too much or working too long and too hard. Sometimes when the pressure of suppressing the feelings of grief become too great the doctor will diagnose mental health problems.
However, there is a set of actions that people can take which will help them understand how loss has affected them and what they have done with the grief that those losses have evoked. Every experience of loss is unique and it can be unhelpful to think that there are stages to recovery, because that can set us up to fail. ‘I went through the angry stage last week, so I should not be feeling this angry today’. The path to recovery can depend as much on your own self determination as on the attitude and responses of the people around you, but the crucial first step is to choose to recover.
It is important to say here that recovery does not mean forgetting, or never feeling sad, it means feeling complete with the loss and able to move forward without fear of being hurt again. It means allowing yourself to be sad from time to time and for that to be OK.
The Grief Recovery Method®, a pilot project within Carers Lewisham, will take you through the steps necessary to understand and uncover the losses within your life. In the privacy of your own home you will uncover the behaviours that you have used to help you deal with the grief and then, with the support of a group and a trained Grief Recovery Specialist, you will be guided through the steps necessary to become complete with one loss that is central to you. Once you have gained this understanding you can apply it to other losses. It is an educational and support programme that is also therapeutic.
For more information see: Grief Recovery where you can also download an ebook with more information about Grief Recovery.