While everyone experiences bereavement differently, there are feelings at “ the core of our experience” which can be seen as common to us all. Elizabeth Kubler Ross in her book “On Death and Dying talks of the “Cycle of Grief” and as a rough model it can help us to find a pathway into and through our grief.
First there is The Shock.
Shock and disbelief – “It can’t be true!”
This can often be followed by Denial;
When the initial shock passes we may try to deny that the death has occurred; as example there could be a strong sense of having seen or heard the person that we have lost.
Anger and Guilt may follow.
You may find yourself asking: "Why me? - it seems so unfair”. Do we then blame ourselves or do we then blame others?
Despair can come on the wake of such angry feelings.
This for many becomes a feeling whereby life has lost its meaning and its very purpose.
With an eventual Acceptance of the loss; we can experience the extent and the depth of our feelings. We are able then to recall the person, who has died, yet with a reconnection to the memories and the feelings of the past.
We won’t, all of us, experience each of the stages, nor necessarily will they be in this set order. Having come a certain amount of the way towards acceptance of the loss, we can be dragged back to Denial or to Anger, as the possibility of Despair may be too much and some help could be needed to work it through.
Hidden feelings that can stop us fully grieving.
Hidden feelings of anger can make it difficult to come to terms with our loss. It is common to blame ourselves for the deaths of others. Especially where we may have had mixed feelings towards the one who has been lost – with undercurrents of both love and hostility. It is very difficult to own these mixed feelings. They may come out in other ways as we become angry with a close family member or the doctors at the hospital or we turn it on ourselves and think of ourselves as worthless or bad.
Sometimes we cannot think of the person who is lost as separate from”our-self”, believing that everything that has happened was in some way caused by us. – Was it something we did that caused the person to leave us? In beginning to recognise the separation from the person we love, the grieving process can really begin as we become stronger in connecting to the reality of our loss.
How can therapy help?
To feel grief is an important way forward in life, when meeting with the loss of those we love. A therapist would aim to help you allow yourself to grieve, where it has become difficult to let the depth of your feelings meet with the loss of the person who has died.
Some References and Reading
On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
BBC Website http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/emotional_health/bereavement/