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There are few things in life that are certain. An inspirational Existential Therapist of mine, Irvin D. Yalom, defined the “four givens of life” as death, freedom, responsibility and isolation.
Each day I interact with fellow human beings. I listen to them, I talk and generally enjoy the feeling of being with people. Sometimes I meet someone with whom I feel a connection over something as simple as liking the same piece of music. If I am fortunate enough a bond or friendship will start to develop.
Why are bonds and attachments to others so important
Some connections and bonds are stronger than others, such as those that we form during childhood with our parents or primary caregivers. Bonds develop with relatives, friends and pets. When these important and powerful bonds are threatened through separation or forever broken by death, it is inevitable that we experience a powerful emotional reaction. Emotions can, occasionally, become overwhelming. Thoughts of a life no longer available to us, dreams that can never be realised or feelings of guilt or regret are some of the emotions felt when experiencing a loss.
Strong bonds and attachment to important people in our lives provide us with a sense of belonging, security and safety. In essence we feel loved and cherished. These strong bonds tend to, but not always, develop when we are young and are vital for our well being, sense of self and survival. Being provided with a sense of security and safety offers the conditions for freedom and confidence to explore the world in which we inhabit.
If these bonds come under threat or are taken away a feeling of anxiety is evoked. Depression may set in and a whole myriad of feelings such as sadness, anger, guilt, fatigue, shock, yearning, relief, isolation, numbness and hopelessness may engulf our every day existence.
Loss can take many forms. The loss of a life and thereafter the special relationship with that person. With this there is the loss of identity, role and purpose. The realisation that plans for the future can no longer be realised can seem hard to face.
Grief – a personal experience
No one escapes grief. It is an experience that touches everyone’s life at some stage. The process of grief is a uniquely personal experience and lasts for different periods of time for different people, for different reasons.
As a Counsellor I support clients with their grief, offering them the opportunity to holistically express the pain they feel and this may involve tears as well as anger . I am privileged to be alongside clients as they try to accept the reality of their loss. Overtime and when ready, clients are generally able to adjust to a world without the deceased. Finding an enduring connection with my deceased loved ones aided my capacity to live life fully once more and embark on a new life incorporating new meaning.
Reaching out for help by seeking support
When submerged in the strong emotions of grief, it is important to receive support from those we trust. The feeling of helplessness is experienced by both those willing to support and those needing support. By voicing your needs it helps those around you to meet your needs and feel less isolated.
Counselling allows you to talk about your grief in a safe and professional environment. There is no expectation to “get over it”. Grief takes time and in my experience something that cannot be forced or rushed.
“Every great loss demands that we choose life again.
We need to grieve in order to do this.
The pain we have not grieved over
will always stand between us and life.
When we don’t grieve, a part of us becomes caught in the past …”
By Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom, (Riverhead Books, New York, 1996)
Links for further help with grief and loss:
Bowlby, J. (1988) A Secure Base: Clinical Applications of Attachment Theory. London: Routledge
Yalom, I. D. (2008) Staring at the Sun. Overcoming the Dread of Death. London: Piatkus
Worden Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy. A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner, 4th edition. (2010) London: Routledge
Rachel Naomi Remen –