It may be helpful to recognise that grief is part of the process as we adjust to a new reality – and not just for those of us who have lost loved ones.
Grief is our natural response to any kind of loss – and we’ve lost a lot lately, from the ability to socialise or shop without anxiety to, perhaps, our very livelihoods, as well as our expectations for the future.
When we are bereaved, society steps in to give us something to do – arranging a funeral, settling the deceased person’s affairs. Relatives bond together and others offer help and sympathy; the instinct to connect with others helps repair our sense of security (which makes the current ban on getting and giving hugs particularly difficult to bear).
We saw a nationwide reflection of this process when lockdown started. It was like the initial shock of bereavement and many responded by offering each other help. In our communal response and support for frontline workers, we were like a bereaved family gathering together.
But, as anyone who has lost someone close knows, it can actually be harder to cope after the funeral. Difficult feelings flood back as the close knot of family and friends begins to loosen and we face living an altered life.
Similarly, with the initial lockdown past, we are effectively”going our separate ways” to deal with the aftermath of our loss and begin to construct our new reality in a changed world.
If we recognise that these adjustments involve processing grief – with the anger, lethargy, guilt, restlessness, anxiety or whatever else this can entail – we can perhaps be kinder to ourselves and others when it is feeling particularly hard.
Grief is such a painful experience, it’s difficult to understand why we have to go through it. For an insight into that and what can help, there’s an article on my website here.
For those who have lost a loved one recently, or want to support someone who has, there’s more information on the Cruse bereavement support website here.
Karen Bray (MBACP) is a counsellor with a private practice in Bath. Her website is at www.karenbray.co.uk.