While we mostly think of grief and loss in connection with the death of a family member or friend, it can actually be triggered by a range of different circumstances.
What they all have in common is that our lives change significantly as a result, as we try to come to terms with the loss of something (or someone) we valued. We feel like we are no longer in control.
Different Types of Grief and Loss
Here are just some of the situations other than death, which may lead to feelings of grief and loss:
Being diagnosed with a chronic health condition: A diagnosis of diabetes for example, can turn a person’s life upside down as they realise that they now have to closely monitor their food intake and blood glucose levels etc.
Or think of what it must be like for somebody with a skin condition such as ichthyosis or severe eczema. Although these are not contagious, others can still react negatively to their appearance. Sufferers may experience high levels of anxiety and depression, and avoid social situations as they don’t like dealing with others staring or making cruel or unthinking comments.
Having a child or family member with a disability: Looking after a child or family member with a disability can be very challenging and draining, and research shows that carers often develop depression and anxiety.
While the diagnosis itself can be difficult to process and cope with, the parents and family also have to adjust to playing a much larger role in the child or individual’s life, as well as coming to grips with the workings of the NDIS etc.
Parents may grieve the loss of their dreams of a “normal” child and family – and then feel guilt or shame about these thoughts, while at the same time wondering if the disability was something they could have prevented.
Getting older: Age can bring limitations both physically and mentally. This can be very hard to accept for adults used to being quite independent, especially when they require help with everyday tasks such as shopping, cooking, cleaning and even personal hygiene.
Grief and loss becomes more common in the lives of older people as their contemporaries pass away; and the elderly are also often hit particularly hard by the loss of a beloved pet.
Terminal illness and palliative care: Planning and getting used to the idea of what’s ahead can be very confronting, and loved ones may feel uncomfortable or even avoid discussions about death and dying.
Losing a job: Our society tends to place enormous value on our occupation, and it can form a big part of our identity and self worth. So when we lose a job through redundancy for example, it can lead to feelings of rejection and inadequacy – even though it is usually more about management needing to cut back on expenditure, than our competency in the workplace.
Mental illness: Whether it’s schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety – having a mental illness diagnosis can make a person feel that they are now their condition, rather than an individual. It’s common to experience feelings of shame and embarrassment due to the stigma which still surrounds many mental health conditions. However individuals are also impacted by the sensation that they have lost control of their own life, as their condition may prevent them from enjoying life, performing everyday tasks, or holding down a job.
Support during Grief and Loss
There is no set time frame for grief and loss, it all depends on the individual and it can be quite a process to adjust to the implications of the event, as they learn to live without the person, their health, their job, or whatever it might be. There may be pressure from family and friends to put the loss behind them and just get on with life, however this is much easier said than done.
At times like these, grief and loss counselling may be valuable, as it provides the opportunity for you to:
- articulate the loss;
- identify and express your feelings;
- facilitate the emotional relocation of the deceased (or the job, or whatever the loss may have been);
- have a safe space to grieve;
- access support; and
- identify and practise coping strategies.
The techniques used in grief and loss counselling vary, as therapy is tailored to the individual, however narrative therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and mindfulness techniques such as grounding and relaxation are often employed.
Author: Jayani Jayatilake, BA (Soc Sc), M Social Work, AMHSW.
With a Masters degree in Social Work and a strong interest in the cultural considerations in counselling, Jayani considers each individual client to be the expert in their own life. As such, she encourages her clients to take an active role in therapy. By helping them to recognise and draw on their own strengths, resourcefulness and resilience, Jayani supports them to overcome obstacles and enjoy a better life today. Jayani is able to provide English and Sinhalese counselling.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.