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Coping with grief: the death of Peaches Geldof

Grief is once again at the heart of the nation with the recent and tragic discovery of the death of Peaches Geldolf. The shock of losing a daughter, sister, mother and friend so young has spurred the empathy and pain of many as they look to her famous father Bob for clues and statements.

From a therapeutic viewpoint, grief is a unique set of emotions defined by a human feeling of powerlessness over a loss. And even though grief is often talked about in ‘stages,’ the way we process grief as an individual and also as a community can vary enormously from person to person and family to family.In today’s blog we’re going to look at the nature of bereavement, how we come to process or resist the emotional loss and what we can do to support
ourselves when loss occurs.

How do we process grief?

Grief is often described in ‘stages’ by the health industry. It is a fairly reliable way to frame the process of grief with the aim of helping people to adapt to the different feelings they may be experiencing in the period following the loss. In practise however, grief can manifest in many forms and remains multi-faceted as a set of emotional responses. Many of those suffering from loss will say therefore that the stages of grief are not as clear-cut as is suggested and that each experience is wildly different.

What are the stages of grief?

There are six well-known stages that a grieving person may go through:

Shock – disbelief about the death or loss

Denial – the person might try to tell themselves that life is just the same as it was before the loss

Anger – thinking ‘why did this happen to me?’ or continuing to believe that they have always been an unlucky person

Guilt – blaming themselves for the death or loss

Depression – this includes symptoms such as sleepiness, irritability, changes in appetite, physical pains, loss of motivation and social withdrawalwithdrawal

Acceptance – realising that life must go on. Symptoms finally become less intense and less frequent, allowing the individual to regain your energy and motivation

How can grief vary?

While some people suffering from loss may find identification with these stages, what about for those who don’t? Beyond a feeling of loss, which may result in physical pain, fatigue and depression, what is lesser known are the more subtle reactions to a bereavement which can manifest in confusion, inertia, addiction, compulsive or ritualistic behaviours, OCD symptoms and even psychosis. Furthermore, memories of time spent with the lost person can start to become unpleasantly blurred or missing, further compounding the pain. One sufferer describes her grief as ‘disguising itself amongst life’s daily

What can you do to support yourself during a bereavement?

While some periods following the loss will be harder than others, there are three practical tools we at Fresh Mind Therapy recommend for helping someone to process their grief:

1) Journaling – the practise of writing down our emotions helps us to connect to the subtler feelings about the loss and distinguish between grief and daily emotions and challenges, giving us a more helpful perspective

2) Seeking help – grief may be an individual experience on some level however connecting with others helps us move through the difficult stages and address issues such as depression and anxiety safely

3) Exercise – it sounds like a half measure but while emotional states are high it’s important to keep your body moving and pay attention to daily activities. Simple walking, yoga or one of the more gentle exercises will suffice

Counselling and psychotherapy for bereavement

Bereavement counselling is one way to begin to manage the painful emotions associated with grief and help you to focus on and be present in your daily life despite the pain you feel. Counselling and psychotherapy treatment will be focused on:

  • Understanding the stages of bereavement and what they mean to each individual
  • Processing and accepting ‘mourning’ as healthy and permissible, no matter the scale
  • Resolving additional problems associated with loss such as depression or anxiety or compulsive behaviours
  • Helping to develop a new and improved sense of self

Fresh Mind Therapy provides help and support for a range of bereavement issues through counselling and psychotherapy. We can help those suffering from loss to take a pro-active approach to their lives and focus on coping with the hard edge of grief on a daily basis. To find out more about how therapy could help support you through a loss, get in touch with us here

photo credit: Dell’s Official Flickr Page via photopincc