The LEACA NetworkThe Movement for Learning and Caring

Bereavement

  1. Losses come in many forms, not just the death of someone important to us. Examples of other losses include:

    • Loss of a job
    • Moving home
    • Children leaving home
    • The end of a relationship
    • The end of a group or training course
    • Loss of health
    • The menopause
    • Having a baby, particularly the first, has loss associated with it – the loss of a lifestyle without this responsibility.
  2. Whatever the nature of the loss, we are bereft and we will experience a range of feelings which will almost inevitably include

    • Grief
    • Anger
    • Guilt
  3. We cannot predict how any particular loss will affect us. The feelings may come up in all sorts of ways with all sorts of intensity. Often we will be surprised, losing someone close might trigger quite mild emotion whilst losing someone more distant might have a deep impact. The order in which the emotions come up and which are most intense varies greatly.

    The emotions may appear in odd ways. After losing someone close some people may start getting angry in situations that they do not connect with their loss. Someone who has got out of an abusive relationship may feel, justifiably, very angry. They may not realise that some grief that they are feeling is also about the loss of something which, while having a lot bad about it, was also a familiar part of their lives.

  4. Emotions heal by being released. Crying heals grief, storming and shouting heals anger, talking about feelings of guilt can heal the fear.
  5. Many people do not know how to support someone who is bereft, often they will feel uncomfortable and avoid the subject or the person. We may be able to train them. Let them know that it is all right to ask someone how they are, to invite them to talk about their loss or about who or what they have lost. And that it is all right if the person gets upset. That all they need to do is both simple and very special, just be there and listen.

    If people can do this for us when we are bereft then that will probably be all the support that we need. If not, then that is what bereavement counsellors are there for – though any counsellor or psychotherapist will probably be used to working with bereavement. Alternatively, co-counselling is excellent for working with emotions. It does require an initial training, which can itself be healing.

  6. There usually seem to be a couple of milestones in the bereavement process. One is when we can talk about the loss without getting more upset than we would like.

    The other is when we are ready to say goodbye. This can be the point at which we are ready to let go of someone, if they are still alive. Or the point at which we feel ready to get rid of symbols of their presence or go to their grave and say goodbye or stop feeling we have to keep fresh flowers on their grave.

    It does not mean that we forget someone.

  7. Sometimes we lose people before they are gone. This can happen when a relationship changes with someone who is still around, for example when parents end an intimate relationship but stay close with their children. It can be important to work through bereavement for the lost relationship and move on and for neither person to keep trying to recreate what has ended.

    This can also happen when someone loses their ability to communicate. Friends and family can feel that they have lost someone though they are still alive. When they do die this can feel like the end of the bereavement process.

  8. If bereavements are not dealt with they tend to accumulate so that quite small losses, like, say, the neighbour's cat dying, can trigger a lot of emotion.

    Bereavement can get mixed up with other reasons we may have for being emotional, especially all the left over stuff from our childhood (particularly when we lose our parents). Sometimes this can complicate bereavement, sometimes bereaving can bring up these other issue and they get healed as well.