There is no timeline to grief. Each of us experiences grief in a unique, complex, and very personal way. It is often painful and sometimes the emotions can become overwhelming. If this is how you're feeling, I can help you begin to learn to live with your loss and adjust to your new life.
Grief is not limited to feelings of sadness. It can also involve guilt, yearning, anger, and regret. The emotions you experience may be surprising and confusing. You may find yourself grieving a painful or abusive relationship or mourning a loved one who died from cancer and yet feel relief that the person is no longer suffering or that you're no longer in a caregiver role. I can help you begin to work through these feelings to regain a sense of self and peace.
Grief isn't always related to the death of a loved one. It could involve a life change such as divorce or job loss. I'm here to help you with any loss you may be grieving.
I'd like to introduce you to some clients I've helped work through the grief they were experiencing over the loss of a loved one.
Judy was a women that had tragically lost her husband at a young age; she was not yet 30. She had a very difficult time processing the loss and felt an immense amount of guilt over her relationship with her husband.
Judy sought out counselling because she was finding herself racked with overwhelming grief but also guilt over not being the wife her husband had deserved. Since her husband’s death she was bombarded with stories about how perfect her husband was, how great he was, how he didn’t deserve to die, and so on. This had left Judy feeling as though she should have been the one to die that day and undeserving of the life she continued to live when he no longer had one. Judy was no longer left with the true memories of her husband but rather those of a perfect idol.
Through our discussions we realized that Judy was dealing with a great deal of grief, not just for her husband but also for the life she felt she lost. She no longer saw the future she had envisioned. Instead of a happy home filled with smiling kids, she saw only emptiness. Perhaps the most profound in this, we learned that Judy felt extreme guilt because by not having children, she felt that she had robbed her husband of the opportunity to have a piece of him live on in the world. Judy also found herself ruminating on all the things she had done wrong in her relationship. She saw herself as the villain, and her husband as the hero.
I was able to help Judy identify the mixed emotions she was experiencing. I helped her recognize her grief over her husband and her future but more importantly, I helped Judy move past her guilt and shame by helping her remember her husband and relationship as it really was and not the ideal picture she had painted. Judy was able to rebalance her thoughts about her husband and realize that her life was worth living.
Carol was a senior that had recently lost her husband after a long illness. She reached out for counselling because she wasn’t sure how to process the loss.
We met a few times and Carol told me about her husband and what life was like without him but I could tell that Carol was holding back. She was painting a picture for me of a perfect life, a perfect relationship and we all know that life and relationships are not perfect. Finally, during our third session I asked Carol about this and she crumbled. She started to cry and said she was always told never to speak ill of the dead.
From there we learned that Carol was having trouble processing her loss because her insides were turning with so many mixed emotions. She missed her husband dearly but she also felt extreme guilt because a lot of the time she found herself thankful he was gone. She was grateful he was no longer in pain but also, she was happy to no longer have to be his caregiver. She was thankful for her newfound freedom to care only for herself, the freedom to come and go as she pleased, and the thing that caused her the most guilt, the relief.
Carol was left feeling like a monster for feeling such positive emotions over his death. We discussed this and eventually Carol came to realize that her feelings were okay. Our feelings don’t need to be one or the other. You can feel grief and relief at the same time and this doesn’t make you a bad person. Just like life, death is complicated and leaves us with a mix of emotions. We can only truly move on from our grief when we recognize and deal with ALL of these emotions.
* Names changed to protect confidentiality.