Grief and Loss Counselling

Grief is a normal human emotional response to the loss of someone or something or even something that could have been. Grief can be about a wide range of situations like losing someone you love, losing your independence, losing your job, the loss of a pet or even the loss of your identity after a major life changing event.

What is grief?

Grief is a natural human, emotional response to loss. Loss comes in many forms. The loss can be of a person we are close to. It can be something that was important to us, like losing your house in a bushfire for example or losing your job. The end of a relationship or the loss of a pet are other types of losses people can experience. Another example of a loss is following a serious illness or accident, one may not be able to live their life as they did prior to the life-changing event. Grief can also occur in relation to life experiences, like being unable to have a baby or find a long-term partner or meaningful connection with someone. For others, grief can occur when our bodies are not working like we expect or hope they will due to a medical condition that has a significant impact on our functioning. Grief might also occur when we reflect on our family situation and how it hasn’t turned out the way we would hope or expect it to be.

Grief usually involves intense emotions including shock, denial, anger, numbness, despair and sadness. Everyone responds to loss in their own unique way and how you respond and feel is personal to you. Often the more significant the loss is, the more intense the grief is. Grief has a tendency to impact every aspect of a person’s life, spilling into your work, family, relationships, friends, sleep, and your physical and mental health.

What are the stages of grief?

When grief is discussed, 5 stages of grief are often referenced. These stages of grief are commonly known as: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Whilst it is helpful to know what the stages of grief are, grieving is not linear or standard in anyway and no two people grieve in the same way. You may experience all of these stages, you may only experience one or two. Likewise you may experience other feelings and emotions that are not referenced in these stages of grief.

How does grief work?

Even though grief is a normal part of being a human, it is something that can be a real struggle for people, and they often need to speak with someone to assist them to work through the grief they are experiencing. Grief often becomes easier over time as you learn to adjust and adapt to whatever you are faced with.

Some personal factors that can impact on how you grieve include:

  • What it is you are grieving
  • How you have been raised and the experiences you have had growing up
  • If you have experienced grief and loss in the past
  • What support you have available to you
  • Your belief system and your culture

As grief is personal, whatever happens for you is the right thing to happen when it comes to grief. It’s important to give yourself space and time to work through the emotional unpredictability that tends to come with grief. It’s also important that you deal with grief in healthy ways, like talking to friends and family, or alternatively speaking to a trained, caring and understanding therapist.

What is grief like?

As grief is different for everyone, it is difficult to say exactly what you can expect. The feelings people have following the loss of something or someone are unlikely to hit all at once. The feelings often come and go, like a wave washing over you and then moving away. The feelings can be triggered randomly and unexpectedly.

Some common feelings people experience when grieving include:

  • Being overwhelmed
  • Shock and disbelief
  • Sad
  • Anger
  • Abandoned, lost and lonely
  • Distressed, fearful, or terrified
  • Regretful, remorseful or relieved
  • Guity or ashamed

Some common thoughts people find themselves experiencing when grieving include:

  • Repetitive and at times intrusive thoughts
  • Blaming whatever has brought the grief situation on, getting stuck in these thoughts
  • Thoughts about the situation not being real
  • Confusing thoughts, leading to an inability to make decisions or concentrate and are often forgetting things

Some commonly reported behaviours people experience when grieving include:

  • Crying and feeling tearful
  • A lose of interest in doing anything
  • Being irritable, short, snappy with others
  • Withdrawal, including a tendency to isolate oneself from others

Grief can also impact aspects of your physical life and cause disruptions to things like your sleep, appetite, feelings of nausea, fatigue, restlessness, muscle aches and headaches. Often people who are grieving, find themselves questioning certain aspects of their life, like their beliefs and what the meaning or purpose of life is.

Grief counselling

Grief counselling involves connecting with a therapist that understands what you are going through and provides you with a safe space to talk through what is happening for you without any judgement or expectations of you needing to be further along your journey or “over” whatever loss you have experienced. Grief therapy can help you to work through the emotional responses you have after the loss.

At times it can be difficult to discuss how you are feeling with others. Keeping these feelings to yourself can impact on your psychological health and prevent you from healing. Grief counselling with a trained psychologist or counsellor can help to work through these issues in a safe, supportive, caring way.

Complicated grief

The death of someone you love is one of the most distressing experiences a person can ever face and can cause emotional and physical pain like you may have never felt before. Grief can be exacerbated depending on how your loved one has lost their life. If you have lost your loved one under traumatic circumstances or suddenly or unexpectedly, and the person has passed away before the normal age we expect someone to pass, you may go on to experience complicated grief.

Complicated grief initially looks and feels very similar to normal grief. As a person works through normal grief their symptoms tend to fade. With complicated grief, the symptoms tend to stay the same or sometimes become worse, which interferes with the healing process.

Signs of complicated grief may include:

  • Intense sorrow and pain
  • Persistent thoughts over the loss of your loved one
  • Inability to focus on anything other than the loss of the person you love
  • Intense focus on reminders of your loved one or one can actively avoid reminders
  • Extreme and persistent longing for your loved one
  • Difficulties accepting the death
  • Feelings of numbness and/or detachment
  • Feelings of bitterness about your loss
  • Loss of faith and trust in others
  • Life feels meaningless or purposeless and feels like it isn’t worthwhile
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Struggle to establish a routine
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Feelings of guilt or self-blame
  • Thoughts about wishing you too had died with the person you love

We can help!

Connecting with one of the trained psychologists or counsellors at Brisbane Counselling Centre, who care about you and are understanding of your grief can really help to decrease your emotional pain and distress you are feeling.

Prolonged Grief Disorder: Recognition and Treatment