The death of someone we are close to or the loss of a way of life can bring about overwhelming feelings of grief. Grief is the name given to the natural reactions we have in response to this death or other great loss. Grief can feel painful, and grieving is natural and healthy. When we are grieving it can be difficult to go about our daily lives and to understand what is happening. We may be affected on all levels by our grief; mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and socially. We may feel shock, anger, guilt, fear, depression and longing. By talking with someone who understands grief it can help us to understand what is happening, and to find ways to cope with the loss and the new situation.
Being well supported through a time of bereavement can bring some ease to the suffering we are experiencing. Being listened to, exploring our feelings, reflecting on the loss and in time remembering what we appreciate and value, can help us adapt to our new circumstances and find to balance with how things are. Working with our grief is not about trying to forget the person we have lost, it is about integrating this loss into our life and finding ways to live our life now.
The way we grieve is individual to each person and how we react will be influenced by many different things, including our personality, age, cultural background, spiritual or religious beliefs, our previous experiences of bereavement, our life circumstances and how we cope with loss. Death is a natural part of life, and grieving is a natural process.
In life we will experience many losses, some may feel small and insignificant, others impact on us greatly. Birth, aging, death and transitions are all part of the natural cycles of life; opening to our losses as well as our joys enriches our experience of life.
Over the years I have extensively explored my own experiences of grief, and since 2003 I have worked closely with people living with serious illness and experiencing bereavement. My roles have included training volunteers to befriend people who are seriously ill and providing supervision and on-going support to volunteers and to the people engaging with the befriending services. I have also worked in a therapeutic capacity at the Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre in Oxford, which provides information and support for people whose lives are affected by cancer.