Grief & Loss
"My personal journey with grief began as a young child who loved animals and dreamed of being a Veterinarian until I learn death was part of the job. As I lost many of my own beloved pets as a child I did learn the crying would come to an end. As a young teenager I lost my grandfather who I loved like a father as he lived with my family. None of these losses however prepared me for the tragic and painful loss of my husband. I was in a developmental stage where being a widow was not normal unless you lived in a country at war. I was in my early 20's and it seemed like life was over as all my dreams and goals changed overnight. I had no coping skills for a loss of this degree and believed I would never stop crying or experience any joy again. I struggled to make sense of how I could continue life as it seemed so painful. I have always been a determined person; it was this strength that pushed me forward. I entered University two years later to begin a new journey of studying psychology and becoming a counsellor. I believe all my sadness and pain has contributed to the caring and supportive psychotherapist I have become. Most clients have never known this story yet they know on a deep level I understand.”
- (Bonnie Mason MA, RCC, RMFT)
What is grief really like?
Grief is a natural part of life; it is our response to loss. The loss can be death of a loved one, a marriage ending, injury to our bodies, loss of a job or the loss of a pet. These are only a few of the losses we may experience throughout our lives. The response to loss varies from person to person and country to country. Our response to loss is also rooted in the theories of attachment and bonding. Some individuals may tend to over attach to the ones they love while others remain somewhat distant of their loved ones. There are many factors that contribute to sadness, anger, shock, panic, denial and numbness.
In the beginning stages of grief many people struggle to cope with basic daily tasks such as sleeping, eating, thinking straight, everything just seems too overwhelming to manage. This is often when people who have not had the opportunity to learn some healthy coping methods may begin to cope in possible harmful ways like drinking or drug use. There is no one way to grieve in a healthy way as each person and their loss is unique to them. There is also no time frame of when we should feel better and be finished our grief process. We need to come to terms with what has changed in our lives and make a new meaning of our life. Often our perceptions and expectations of ourselves and others will be changed as result of the loss. The loss of a loved one or any other form of great loss will always be a part of our life story. It is learning to live with the loss that takes determination.
How to care for yourself during grief:
- Do your best to rest and eat well.
- If you were involved regularly in exercise return to your routine, or start something new, it is very helpful to move your body.
- Reach out to loved ones and friends.
- See your family doctor so they are aware of your situation.
- Draw or journal your feelings as they arise.
- Set up a comfortable place in your home that you feel very safe e.g. favourite chair you can seek comfort there as needed.
- When ready slowly begin to create rituals around your relationship to the person you lost. e.g. scrap booking, photo's etc.
- Begin something new like art class or cooking class in order to have some sense of a future.
- Try not to take on any new stressors or make any big decisions like selling your house etc.
- Seek the support of a counsellor if your sadness is lingering too long or you are really struggling to cope.
- Have faith in your religion or spiritual beliefs and most of all have faith in yourself.
Children and grief:
Children express their grief differently than adolescents or adults. Depending on the loss children may need play & art therapy to process the emotions that they have no words for. Children express grief through their behaviours such as separation anxiety, night fears, crying, anger, frustration, and often will regress back to bedwetting or thumb sucking. It may be important for your child's school to be informed of the loss whether it is a divorce or death. Teachers are able to notice behaviours that are out of the norm for your child such as withdrawing or disruptive behaviours.
Children who have lost a parent will often not express their feelings to the surviving parent as they do not want to see them upset. While the adult is going thought their own experience of losing a partner, they are often too sad to support their children in a way that they normally would be capable of. Children express their feelings in the world of play which is their language. Children who attend play therapy for a loss are supported by a safe and caring play therapist. This can often be very reassuring for the parents to know their child is in counselling and getting support for their grief.
Please see our Services page for details on play therapy.
I have experienced a loss on every level of my life, from parents, my health, ability to work and marriage and most recently a long time pet. Since 2001 Bonnie has been a source of support, direction and comfort that has been invaluable to me. I have and will continue to recommend her to friends and colleagues.
- A.S., Surrey, BC