If you were asked to list all the losses in your life you’d probably include events like the death of a loved one or maybe a relationship break up.
If you spent more a little more time thinking back over your life you may find that you include some of the following in your list;
Maybe you had to leave your childhood home or a place where you felt safe. Maybe you chose to move yet you still left a place that you associate with happy memories.
Maybe a friend moved away, you lost touch or events made it impossible to stay friends?
Maybe you always dreamed of being a racing driver or a doctor, maybe you dreamt of traveling and haven’t had the chance.
You may have lost a partner through a relationship breakup or maybe you are close to someone who has dementia and no longer knows who you are.
You may have planned a family and found that you can’t have children or may have experienced a miscarriage felt you had to keep it to yourself.
We often spend more time with our pets than our relatives and they give so much that when they die they can leave a big hole in out lives.
Again you may have chosen to move to a new role or the change may have been forced on you.
Our list of losses will reflect both who we are and our experiences. We may dismiss some losses as trivial or not even recognise that we’ve lost something and are grieving for it.
Grief is often associated with bereavement but we can experience loss a variety of ways and can also feel grief for a wide variety of reasons. It may be we are feeling stuck and are not sure why. Even though we don’t recognise it, it could be grief that’s preventing us from moving forward.
Everyone will grieve differently and for different reasons. And there’s no right way of doing it, no pattern we can follow and no timescales for the process. It’s also not a linear process, you can feel as if you are moving forward and then out of nowhere the pain is there again.
We may be able to push grief away for a time, and that’s ok as it can be incredibly hard to stay with the pain. But it usually comes back.
If we can find a way to face up to the grief the way we feel will change. That doesn’t mean the loss will go away but we can build our lives around the hole that’s been left behind.
Grieving can also be a time of learning and growth; it can show us what we value, what we want from life.
Here are three things we can do to help move forward:
Acknowledge the loss – Accept we have lost something. And don’t judge the size or scale of the loss. Also don’t compare ourselves to anyone else.
Sit with the feelings – Take time to see how you feel, examine what’s going on for you. Do you feel angry, deep sadness, guilt, relief or a mixture of these and more? All of these feelings can be part of the grieving process.
Let the wound heal – The grief can start to feel familiar. We may not want to let it go as it feels safe and the future may seem uncertain and scary. We may find ourselves ‘poking at the wound’ and not allowing it to heal as we’re scared of forgetting what’s happened or the person we’ve lost.
We’ll all work through our grief in a different way. There are no ‘shoulds’, no time limits. And we don’t have to do it alone. There is help out there.
You may have someone in your life that can support you. Working with a therapist can also provide a safe, confidential space to explore what’s happening and support you to move forward.
Jacquie Hampton is a counsellor and psychotherapist. You can find out more about her at www.jacquiehampton.co.uk.