Western society tries to distance itself from the devastating feelings of accumulated grief and loss. We often treat it as something that happens to other people and should never be discussed. But loss is all around us every day. We have all experienced some form of loss and grief by the time we are in our early teens. The loss of grandparents, loss of a pet, loss of a favourite toy, friend or first relationship – these are losses that are experienced but never truly felt or acknowledged.
We can accumulate feelings of grief and loss through our lives. Just as we are beginning to heal from one loss then another may occur. The beginning of grief and loss may be from our childhood with the loss of our first pet. We then go on through our lives losing partners, jobs, homes, friends, parents, siblings, children and family members. Often we are never fully able to mourn for each mounting loss due to pressure and limited time. However in the end we may be left with a deep sadness that lingers through every aspect of our lives.
We put on a brave face and say “I’m fine” or “I’m doing much better.” We may desperately try to change the subject because we don’t wish to become a burden to others. We try to meet each new day with a positive, competent face while internally we are engulfed in sadness, pain and depression.
Denying grief will do nothing to assist with the healing process but will probably prolong the emotional and mental suffering. Left unresolved grief can manifest itself into physical and mental ill health. After loss there are always feelings and things that are left unresolved and incomplete. These may be things said or not said, dreams planned but never realised, or promises made but never kept. The key to grief recovery is completion – not closure.
Christopher Swane - Grief and Loss Counselling - Wellington New Zealand