A sense of loss

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Loss, grief and bereavement are an inevitable, inescapable part of life.  We will all lose someone we love at some point in our life and the loss can often hit us harder than we expect.  Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering we feel when something or someone we love is taken away. Often, the pain of loss can feel overwhelming. We may experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, loneliness, anxiety and profound sadness. But there’s no right or wrong way to feel. It affects people in different ways.

BACP member and Head of Bereavement Counselling at Teesside Hospice, Sara Mathews, sums it up by saying: “Bereavement is not only a very emotionally distressing experience but can also leave people feeling confused, afraid and dislocated from their sense of who they normally are and how they normally respond.  Feelings of loss are part of what it is to love and care about another. These feelings may always be present and although they can change over time, they rarely disappear. Often people treasure those feelings of loss as they connect them to the loved one in a form of continuing bond.”

Right now, many of us are also in mourning for Queen Elizabeth II, who has been a central part of life in Britain for so long.  It can sometimes feel surprising to mourn the loss of someone we didn’t know personally. It can even feel like we don’t have the right to be upset. But there are reasons why you and millions of others might feel this.

  • You feel like you knew her.  Even though you may not have met The Queen in person, it may feel like you knew her. She is probably one of the most famous people in the world and most of us don’t remember a time when she wasn’t our Queen.
  • It might have reminded you of your own experiences.  The death of anyone can bring up memories of your own bereavements. Perhaps The Queen was also special to someone you have lost, or reminds you of them.
  • The world feels changed.  The Queen has been a constant in our lives for so long that sometimes it’s felt as if she would always be around. However old someone is, their death is always a shock. And with someone like our Queen, who has been part of our lives for so long, not being around can make the world feel like a less safe and certain place.
  • You just can’t escape the news.  All forms of media are talking about The Queen, what’s happened and plans for her funeral. This can be difficult to deal with if you’re already feeling vulnerable.

Sometimes grieving as a group, or collective grief, can allow us to process our feelings more easily.  This can happen when a group of people experience the fallout from loss.  In British history, events such as the 7/7 bombings, Grenfell, the Manchester Arena Bombings and the death of Princess Diana have all resulted in a sense of shared or collective grief.  While collective grief can be overwhelming, for many people it can also be comforting to know that you’re not alone in how you’re feeling. Sometimes, if you’re grieving someone you didn’t know it can be hard to allow yourself to feel sad. When grief is nationally recognised you are more likely to feel justified in how you’re grieving.

Coping with loss of any kind can be overwhelming.  It’s important to give yourself time to grieve and to remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel. Grief is a unique experience. There’s no one way of coping with bereavement and what works will depend on each individual.

Some people will figure out how to deal with bereavement with the help of family and friends, while others may need the support of a professional counsellor.  Counselling provides a safe and supportive space in which you can allow your most painful feelings to be expressed and witnessed.  A bereavement counsellor can help you understand your complex and painful emotions and help to reduce the distress you may have about how you are feeling.

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