• Anna Dallavalle

Allowing ourselves to feel the pain

Losing someone we love at some point in our life is a certainty for each of us and yet talking about death and dying or the emotions associated with it, is something most people struggle with. In the not so distant past, children grew up witnessing death and felt its inevitability as the conclusion of the life cycle. Today people die in hospitals, care homes or hospices but rarely in their own beds; parents buy books to their pre-school children to teach them about death.

Why is it that we struggle so much when we are confronted with the raw emotions of a bereaved person? Why are grieving people handed antidepressants when their pain is appropriate to their loss and being grief struck for longer than two weeks can be classed as depression? I think there are several reasons for this and one is that we all feel uncomfortable when faced with true grief. We wish the crying stopped so that we could be more comfortable and life could go back to normal.

The process of grieving is the key to feeling better and this process can take a different length of time for different people. It is a process at the end of which we come to terms with the loss of a person we loved and find the strength to build a meaningful life without them. Over the years, I have seen clients who presented with what is called “complicated grief” which often is the case when, for some reason, an individual has not been able to process a loss. This can happen when someone had a conflictual relationship with the dead person or when we hold a belief that we must be strong for the sake of everyone else and this stops us from grieving. Tears and sadness can also be viewed as a weakness and some individuals will fell they are indulging themselves if they give themselves permission to grieve.

Grieving allows time for introspection and forces us to think of our spiritual beliefs. People with a religious background can find comfort in the belief that there is life after death and that they may see the deceased in another life. But what about those of us who either believe that death is final or have never really stopped to think about how they feel about death and dying? I regularly see people who have experienced emotions they do not know how to deal with following the death of someone they loved – and, at times, also of someone they intensely disliked. Counselling offers the grieving person a space to display their feelings without fear of being judged or the pressure not to upset the other person and pretend they feel better than they really do. Together we look at ways to keep the memory of the loved one alive.