Welcome to Rafan House’s October newsletter!
|What’s here? In this newsletter, look out for: |
– a short article: “Give sorrow words” – after National Grief Week, a look at what might constitute bereavement and coping with feelings after a loss.
– a link to our recently-published book, The Cambridge Code – One simple test to uncover who you are.
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
Knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”
From Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’
The grief that we can feel when we are irrevocably separated from people we love is indescribable. And yet we must describe it, get it outside of ourselves somehow, or it will burrow into the deepest crevices of us and lie dormant. It doesn’t make any difference whether the separation is caused by death, the breakdown of a relationship or the abandonment of a parent, the same grief is felt, and needs to be acknowledged.
There are several stages of grief, and they sometimes take us by surprise. One woman, who had nursed her mother through a final illness, said, “I used to wish she would die soon, because it was hard, nursing her. But when she did, the guilt was terrible. I loved her, but I wished her gone.” That sense of guilty relief is very common, and very natural – a carer can shoulder an immense burden and carry it for a long time without outward complaint. But the inner toll is heavy, and when the load is lifted, of course there will be relief. And, to torment us, guilt.
Another stage is anger. A man remembers the rage he felt when his wife died suddenly, not just against the unfairness of life, but against his dead wife. “I would stamp around the house and shout at her, and feel terrible for shouting at her, but I was so angry. She had no right to leave without saying goodbye”. Again, an instinctive and natural reaction, but one which takes us by surprise in its power and depth. Our feelings during these two stages particularly are difficult to voice, because they shame us.
We might call these ordinary bereavements, because they are a part of the human condition – in life there is also death. Somehow, over time, these ordinary bereavements resolve as a natural process into acceptance, though we will be different people. Grief changes us, because we have to find new ways of being without the object of the grief. That leaves emotional ‘scar tissue’ in our hearts – we are permanently marked, even though new tissue grows around the scar, and so our selves are re-formed. If a person has suffered parental abandonment, or miscarriage, or had a deep relationship broken, the resulting grief is no different in its effect from ordinary bereavement. If the bereavement is suffered by a child, that child will grieve again at each stage of development – for example, at the markers of new teeth, or new school, or onset of puberty. They will need to grieve again in the mode appropriate to the latest stage of their development, until they are fully adult.
For some, the grieving doesn’t seem to end. When we feel we have not been well looked after during our younger years, we keep hoping someone will look after us, and when we lose them, we lose the hope that will happen. We therefore have to keep them alive in our minds so we can keep on hoping rather than acknowledge the terrifying reality that they didn’t look after us as we wanted – and so their shadow stays with us as we can’t let them die. This is unresolved grief. These people might find it much harder to recover, because they are suffering twice, from grief and from grievance, where the anger gets stuck inside. Words are even more important here, to try and voice the feelings which underlie the grief.
What can help here? It doesn’t have to be words – some choose music, or art to reflect their inner feelings. We have our customary rituals, whether it be the formal period of mourning, the laying of flowers or the sharing of food. Beyond that, if we are lucky, we have friends who understand, or bereavement counsellors who can hold us in that gentle space where we feel safe to be vulnerable. For those with unresolved grief, a conversation with a psychotherapist can be helpful in understanding why we are not so resilient, to see the deeper wound and come to terms with the lack of resolution felt.
The last eighteen months of pandemic has changed the landscape of ordinary bereavement. So many people have not been able to be close in the dying moments of people they love, or even to attend their funerals. Under these circumstances, moving on can be even more difficult. There is little provision within a clinically governed structure for this kind of support and therefore creating such provision is very much in our current strategy.
We are now offering psychotherapeutic consultations online – and they are proving to be very accessible and effective, especially for families. We are also holding workshops online for corporates, schools and other organisations, helping people negotiate a very different set of challenges.
If we can help, call us: 0203 542 9935, or email us: email@example.com. You can find more information about us at www.rafanhouse.com. We’re here to help.
Dr Emma Loveridge