Bereavement, loss and separation
Bereavement, loss and separation
Inevitably, and increasingly as we get older, we lose loved ones – and come closer each time to our own mortality.
How do we deal with this most fundamental truth about being human in a society which prefers not to think about it? Death is the great modern taboo: talking about such things can cause shock and offence, while anyone who has been bereaved will know the embarrassment and reticence which surrounds the subject. Widows often say they are shunned by former friends; some people seem to find it easier to cross the road to avoid you than to offer their condolences.
These days, caring for the terminally ill happens increasingly outside the home in specialist units and hospitals. Not only does this remove loved ones from us in their last days, but it removes death and dying from our normal experience. And as we have become estranged from this power and potentially devastating process, our ability to cope with it has diminished accordingly.
Yet bereavement, together with other kinds of loss or separation from loved ones, can have serious consequences for our health, with the potential to undermine sleep patterns, appetite, mental health, and physical energy and well-being. In the early months of a bereavement, you may experience distressing physical symptoms, including headache, dizziness, tiredness, diarrhoea, nausea, tightness in the throat, difficult with breathing, palpitations, and chest pain. There is evidence too that serious illnesses like cancer are more common in people who have suffered a recent bereavement.
Loss is also a well-known trigger for insomnia. Research shows that many people suffer from disturbed sleep patterns for several years after a bereavement.
Bereavement, loss, and separation are also major precipitating causes of depression. Clearly, the death of a loved one is a considerable loss, but the break-up of a marriage, the loss of a job or home, separation from your child or partner can also have devastating effects. Many women suffer a deep sense of loss in midlife when their children leave home. This “empty nest syndrome” may be compounded by other simultaneous losses – a sense of lost youth and perceived attractiveness, the loss of parents, the loss of fertility, even the loss of hopes for the future.
Many factors influence how well we deal with the bereavement, loss or separation, ranging from our previous experience of loss, to the strength (or otherwise) of our social support systems. The conventional view of grieving is that it is a process which has several stages, beginning with numbness or a sense of unreality, then moving on to a mixture of complex emotions including guilt, fear, longing, and anger. Depression and despair may follow; it is only after a year or two, perhaps more, that life returns to some semblance of normality.
The Orthodox Approach
Orthodox treatments for the symptoms of loss or bereavement include antidepressants and/or bereavement counselling.
The Health Transformer Approach to Bereavement, Loss and Separation
All treatments for loss or bereavement should be in association with and with the support of a professional counsellor or therapist.
Everyone is faced with a great loss at some time in their life – be it the loss of a job or an important relationship or a bereavement – and those times will always weaken us physically and emotionally. It is particularly important to seek help in order to reduce your risk of developing an illness while you are in this weakened state.
The essence of supportive counselling and therapy for loss and bereavement has several strands.
Coaching and Counselling has been described by a patient using a sailing analogy. "The therapist’s job, is to go around the bay teaching people how to sail, how to build their boats, service and maintain them, how to manage the rudder, how to choose the right equipment, how to sail with other people and how to learn to enjoy spending time on your own boat, with or without other people. He also helps you to enjoy going on other people’s boats and how to forecast, avoid and deal with adverse weather and sea conditions”.
She went on to describe how the therapist “first used a tow rope so I would feel safe when the business of sailing alone was too much for me” – but added that ultimately she would be able to sail alone, steering her own course and maintaining her own ship.
Through this kind of supportive counselling, the therapist forms a good working alliance with the person who has suffered a loss. Through therapy, one can express their fears, gradually moving on to greater self-sufficiency with the confidence to pursue new relationships and with a new sense of purpose.
To enable an individual to come to terms with loss is to re-emphasize the qualities that someone who has passed away has contributed to the life of the bereaved person and to those of other people. Death is not a finality; people’s qualities and influences live on through those with whom they have interacted. It is important to reassert a positive, happy vision of the deceased person and reduce the negative vision of illness and suffering.
EFT is a fast and effective treatment for any adverse emotional issues. In conjunction with skilled coaching from an NLP practitioner, EFT can quickly get to the underlying deep seated pain and trauma and erase it, allowing you to heal from the pain of loss much more quickly..
Acupuncture can be very effective for people suffering emotional pain, explains one practitioner, especially if they find themselves stuck in a rut and unable to find a way forward. They may be feeling broken-hearted, perhaps after a failed relationship, and suffer pain as if the heart itself were physically broken. The feelings of hurt, sadness, anger, resentment, loneliness, and restlessness remain with them 24 hours a day, often causing serious problems of sleeplessness and bodily malfunction. The acupuncture point on the inside of the wrist is particularly effective for “mending a broken heart”, while pressure on the point on the brow helps to relieve stress.
If the stress that accompanies this kind of emotional upset has caused pain in the shoulder, back or neck, soft-tissue massage – based on traditional Chinese, Thai and Indonesian techniques – can be effective in easing the accumulated tension. Many people find this kind of treatment brings a drastic change to their view of life, almost as if they had discovered a “miracle drug”. Others respond more slowly and may need up to ten sessions.
Acupuncture are particularly helpful in strengthening you physiologically and emotionally, as well as dealing with suppressed grief and grief in general. Mental and emotional help can be given by counselling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, and healing, which in turn will help the physical condition of your body.
In times of great stress, we often forget to look after ourselves, so try to keep to a healthy diet and use flower remedies and aromatherapy. All these treatments can help you through the difficult time – and always remember that with the passage of time your grief will diminish.
There is an old saying that “man is what he eats and what he drinks, how he breathes and what he thinks”. This fits with what we all know from experience – that the food we eat can affect our mood and vice-versa.
If you have recently been bereaved, for instance, your appetite may well be changed, along with your breathing and your thinking. And there are certain foods which are best avoided when you are suffering from grief. Heavy meals can have a depressing effect, slowing you down and making you feel sluggish. This is because they tend to release hormones into your system which have adverse effect on your emotions, making you feel low and irritable.
One should keep well away from alcohol because alcohol is the great magnifier and can make a sad situation feel even worse.
Reiki comes from the Japanese words rei, meaning universal life force, also known as quantum energy, or the God force, and ki, meaning energy. This life force energy flows through every living thing: human. Animal, plant, rock, and planet earth its self. It is possible to utilise this energy using healing hands, to promote the body's ability to balance and heal itself at a very deep level.
The loss of a close friend or relative is inevitable, but people who have suffered such a loss often begin searching for a therapy to help them relax and forget everything, and aroma therapeutic massage may soothe.
If a few months have passed since the loss, grief may have manifested itself physically, appearing to the patient as a new and sudden symptom. One practitioner of aromatherapy, massage and Chinese medicine says she often sees grief manifested in the lungs. The patient’s chi (intrinsic) energy becomes deficient and breathing less full. The voice may be low, even inaudible, and the chest sunken, causing the shoulders to round as if protecting the lungs. Essential oils are able to excite an emotional response that frees the grief in a breakthrough for the patient. Breathing returns to normal, and calmness and acceptance replaces sorrow.
Physiologically the aroma of certain oils helps patients come to terms with loss and uplifts them in daily life. Frankincense and sandalwood are particularly good for calming the mind and relaxing the body.
There are many different flower remedies to aid letting go through the grieving process, accordingly to one therapist. “Pear Blossom (Mosters) helps for any kind of grief or loss in the short term; Ashoka Tree (Aditi Himalayan) is for deep, long-term grief. Honeysuckle (Bach is for people who look back to the past with feelings of ‘if only'.
A vital part of self-help when you are suffering loss is to talk about your feelings – and to ask for help. An inability to share problems and feelings has probably led to a great deal of chronic depression and long-term illness. Far better to seek out a counsellor or close friend, or to contact one of the organizations which offer support and a listening ear.
Exercise – whether that means long walks, or yoga, or lengths of your local pool – can help to take the edge off your negative feelings, restoring normal appetite and patterns of sleep.