"The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to."
At some point we all have to face the gaping hole of grief when we lose a loved one, whether that be a person or a beloved pet. Grief is not something we get over, it is not something with a set amount of time, it is as unique as the person or pet you have lost. It is an enduring pain that seems to be without reprieve and can catch us unawares even months and sometimes years after a loss. There is no right way to grieve.
The expression of grief is often rejected by society, it is something we are encouraged to get over, to move through, to get back to normal. The truth is, there is no returning to normal, life will be ever changed for a person who has lost a loved one. This does not mean that life has to be swallowed up by that grief, or that the suffering is endless. By seeking grief counselling support you can speak openly about your bereavement, share your deepest feelings, your own fears around death, resentments, regrets, and tears. We can work through your grief together, so you don’t feel so alone. We aren’t aiming to forget the person you have lost, in fact it’s often quite the opposite.
Types of Grief
There are many different types of grief, such as disenfranchised grief often seen following a death by suicide, an overdose, or with pet loss. Disenfranchised grief is also relevant currently due to COVID-19, as many people have been unable to take part in the usual community rituals associated with a death. There is also traumatic grief, such as where a death is violent or witnessed, bringing with it even more challenges for the griever. In addition there are what are called living losses or ambiguous grief that can occur when we experience grief about a situation even though no-one has died. This can occur with relationships ending, with the onset of age or illness related physical limitations, the loss of a job, or when a loved one is no longer the person we remember due to factors such as dementia, stroke, or brain injury.
Whatever type of grief you're experiencing, grief counselling can ease feelings of isolation and hopelessness and help you move through the processes of grief in your own way and in your own time but without unnecessary suffering and with a sense of possibility for the future.
The Four Tasks of Grieving
Many people are familiar with the five stages of grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, but a model that many grief counsellors find the most useful is William Worden's tasks of grieving. They are:
Acknowledge the loss
Process the pain of the grief
Adjust to a world without your loved one
Find an enduring connection (also known as continuing bonds) to the person or pet you have lost while embarking on a new life
These tasks may seem completely unachievable right now and you may look at them and not believe you could even get past the first task. That's OK. These tasks are not a checklist you have to pass, these tasks are just a guideline and for some people they may be a lifelong process but in working through these tasks it gives us a path to follow when life can seem lost and so unbearable.
Pet Loss and Grief
For people who have lost a beloved animal there is often is additional distress that can arise. This can be from the death itself, perhaps you were there when your pet took their last breath, and perhaps euthanasia was the final kindness you were able to show. Pet loss is also associated with disenfranchised grief that can occur due to some people (particularly non-pet owners) having a lack of understanding for the depth of your loss and a lack of sympathy and diminished space for your grief. If you would like to speak to me about a recent or past pet loss please get in touch.
I am a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Certified Grief Counselling Specialist and offer grief counselling to youth and adults in B.C. through either online therapy or in-person sessions in North Vancouver.