Dealing with loss and grief
‘I have never climbed Mt. Everest, but I sometimes think it would be easier than navigating the pathway through grief’ – Professor Katherine Shear.
Many of us will more than likely experience the loss of a loved one or somebody close to us within our lifetime. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has been shown that the loss of someone close to us can lead to prolonged substance misuse in addiction, maybe due to the intensity of feeling, relative unfamiliarity of grief and the experience of being confronted by our own mortality. The death of someone we love can be one of the most profound moments of our lives which is why it is so important that grief is properly tackled to successfully begin and sustain recovery.
There are similarities between the grief and loss, and the current crisis we are facing together. The loss of our world as we knew it, the loss of our social networks, and the fear and uncertainty about what the future may hold for us, coupled with a constant concern for the wellbeing of those we love evoke similar feelings as grief, and could be as damaging in terms of their impact on recovery.
When loss isn’t properly addressed and the grieving process isn’t properly acknowledged, it can manifest as mental health problems as well as affecting successful recovery. Traumatic loss, if not dealt with correctly, can have detriment on physical health also. In fact, numerous studies have shown that the same neural signatures are present for both emotional and physical pain in specific areas of the brain. This demonstrates just how pervasive emotional pain and trauma is and the lasting impact it can have physically on our bodies.
So how do we tackle feelings of grief and loss?
Successful mourning is vastly important. From a clinical perspective, mourning involves emotional regulation and a learning process to come to terms with the loss and reorientation into a world without the loved one in it. Successful mourning involves a deep connection to the deceased, yet the ability to imagine a satisfying future without them. Of course, mourning is subjective, no two people experience it the same way and everyone handles a bereavement differently. In relation to our feelings about the Covid-19 crisis, its important to acknowledge our fear for the future, our concern for our loved ones, and the loss of our old lives, and come to a position where we are able come to a point of acceptance of our new reality, even if it will be for only a relatively short while. It is important when we feel anxious about the future to bring ourselves back to the present. Notice what we can see, hear and taste, smell and touch and let the anxiety pass so that it does not become overwhelming.
Obviously dealing with loss and grief successfully is important for our mental and physical wellbeing and there are a variety of ways to do this. These include journaling, meditation and seeking counselling. Being able to talk about our feelings in a safe and non-judgemental space is very powerful. When we understand the grief and loss that we are feeling, we gain insight and can begin the healthy recovery process.
If you are struggling with feelings of loss or grief, we can help. Contact us on 0345 06 121 12