When considering loss our thoughts often turn to the death of a loved one, something we all expect to experience during our lives.
When someone dies our relationship with them becomes frozen in time. So although loss seems linked with the past, it is the future that has changed. Our identity may also shift as we cease to be a son or a husband, a daughter or a wife.
The Importance of Grieving
The effects of loss can be reduced if we take enough time to appreciate their impact on our lives. For this reason every culture around the world has rituals that celebrate the departed and support those that remain.
Carrying on with our lives without fully acknowledging what has happened risks our emotions becoming bottled up. These feelings might even emerge later in unexpected ways that can be more difficult to manage.
Responses to Loss
There are a wide range of reactions and emotions that would be expected following any loss. It is important to recognise that people respond very differently from one another, both in the intensity of their expressed feelings and how long they appear to last.
We may also find ourselves feeling emotions we had not expected. This sometimes happens with an expected death following a long illness.
While there is often a lot of support for people in the days following bereavement, many people find this tails off as others get on with their lives. The feelings of loss persist and a growing sense of isolation may make them even harder to manage.
Other Forms of Loss
There are many other forms of loss. The loss of a job or a relationship can lead to very similar feelings. Young people with lower grades than expected may lose the chance to pursue their chosen career.
All involve a possible shift in our identity, a significant change to our daily routines and having to accept a different future from the one we imagined for ourselves. Taking time to grieve for these losses can make them easier to bear and reduce the risk of issues arising in the future.
Impact of Loss
It is important to consider the broader implications of any loss. Relationships can be a source of safety and so losing someone who contributed to our sense of security can cause us to feel vulnerable. This might lead to feelings of anxiety which may keep us from fully engaging with life.
The manner of the loss can also affect our response as we might be left with traumatic memories. Watching medical staff try in vain to resuscitate a loved one may leave people with violent images that come back to them in their sleep or even as intrusive thoughts during the day. Such post-traumatic experiences are very disturbing and can have long term effects if not addressed.
Managing Feelings of Loss
Loss can be like a stone thrown in a lake. Initially it makes a big splash, and then sends ripples spreading in all directions affecting every part of our lives.
There is value in taking time to consider what this change means for us and allowing our feelings to emerge. Accepting how we feel, without judgement, and allowing time for the full range of complex emotions to appear will help to reduce the negative long term impact of such significant events.
While the feelings surrounding loss will continue for many years, there is an expectation that their impact on our daily lives will diminish with time as we adjust to the change.
If you are feeling overwhelmed following an experience of loss, particularly if your ability to function is affected, or if you are experiencing unexpected symptoms or emotions, then it may be helpful to talk to a Counsellor.
© 2017 Michael Golding
About this blog ...
This is a collection of personal thoughts and observations on issues that many people are facing every day.