Grief is a strange thing, something very hard to explain to people who have not felt it.
Not everyone grieves in the same way, and there is no wrong or right way to grieve. Some people quickly return to normal routines including going back to work, some take a long time, some want solitude, where others seek the company of others – some do all of the above, which is what I did. How people grieve is a personal journey – even if several people are grieving for the same loss, they will grieve in their own way.
Most people are familiar with the phases of grief as:
Most people experience at least two of the five stages of grief, and some people are known to revisit certain stages over many years or even throughout their life.
Psychologist J. W. Worden also created a stage-based model for coping with the death of a loved one. He called his model the Four Tasks of Mourning:
1. To accept the reality of the loss
2. To work through the pain of grief
3. To adjust to life without the deceased
4. To maintain a connection to the deceased while moving on with life.
My personal experience with grief was that I oscillated between two processes (known as the dual model of bereavement – Margaret Stroebe)
1. Loss oriented activities, directly related to the death, which included:
Crying – lots of it, I remember asking the doctor whether I would ever run out of tears or if they would dry up, I was exhausted but could not find a way to stop them.
Yearning – such a strong feeling of yearning where every part of my body ached and at times thought my chest would explode from the weight that was bearing down on it.
Experiencing sadness – a bit of an understatement.
Anger and dwelling – for me this was low level.
Denial is also included in the loss oriented activities but I did not experience this, nor did I shun away from all restoration activities.
2. Restoration activities are associated with secondary losses with regard to lifestyle, routine, and relationships. These include adapting to a new role, managing changes, developing new ways of connecting with family and friends, and cultivating a new way of life.
I embraced counselling, managed the changes slowly and connected well with those family members and friends that were close to me and I trusted before the death. I can honestly say that friends were my salvation.
Therapy is an effective way to learn to cope with the stressors associated with the loss and to manage symptoms with techniques such as relaxation or meditation.
Since becoming a therapist I have found that no two grief therapy sessions are the same. Each experience of grief is unique, complex, and personal, and I will tailor treatment to meet the specific needs of each person. For example, I might help the bereaved find different ways to maintain healthy connections with the deceased through memory, reflection, ritual, or dialogue about the deceased and with the deceased. Some will allow you to scream, cry and just sit quietly, which is what mine did.
In addition to individual therapy, some find that group therapy can be helpful for those who find solace in the sharing of thoughts and feelings, and recovery results are often quick in this setting. Similarly I can invite family members to a family therapy session, which can be suitable for a family whose members are struggling to adapt to the loss of a family member.
It is nearly two years since my loss, and I have learnt how to live with it. I visually see my heart with four chambers and one of those chambers is locked tight, with the key in the lock. Every so often I unlock it and go in and feel the love, it surrounds me like a fog, hugging me, loving me, comforting me. It is a mixture of sadness and happiness, but it is my space and no one can enter but me.
If you would like more information or help you can contact me through my website mariapieretti.co.uk or my facebook page Maria Pieretti Therapy