Grief does not seem to me to be a choice. Whether or not you think grief has value, you will lose what matters to you. The world will break your heart. So I think we’d better look at what grief might offer us. It’s like what Rilke says about self-doubt: it is not going to go away, and therefore you need to think about how it might become your ally. Grief might be, in some ways, the long aftermath of love, the internal work of knowing, holding, more fully valuing what we have lost…” ― Robert Chodo Campbell
”Death is nothing more than a migration of the Soul from this place to another”-Plato
Carlita offers help and support for people whose lives have been deeply marked by with Bereavement, Grief and dealing with the loss of someone to Suicide.
Grief and Bereavement is something that almost every person will go through in life, it is a normal experience part of the cycle of life, yet it can feel like it is destroying your life, when the person you love dies, a part of you dies with them. The life you had together is also suddenly gone, you may be in deep shock and even traumatised at how they passed over and left with a great deal of pain and loss, it´s the worst feeling in the world and very overwhelming. Bereavement is a way of breaking open, as well as losing the one we loved, we feel like we lost who we once were, we lose ability to make informed decisions, we feel lost, we lose self-confidence, we feel like we don’t even recognize who we are now or know who we are now. Healing grief encompasses all these aspects that are rarely talked about or understood easily.
Elizabeth Kübler Ross identified the five stages of grief-
She based her study on people who were dying of terminal illness and having to mentally let go of and grieve the life that they won’t have. This is somewhat different situation to losing a spouse, or loved one, the only commonality is that you are also grieving the loss of the life you would have had with that person who died. So bare that in mind whenever you hear about these stages of grief, grief is not something we go through in text book stages. You will experience some of these and then others you may miss getting to or aren’t ready yet.
Our experience of grief is more like this
Grief is the emotional experience associated with processing that loss, the first stage being the mourning and deep shock and trauma may be associated with the event if the person died in a sudden or tragic way. The mourner has a sense of carrying a huge concrete block of pain, accompanied by being disassociated with the world and the pain of missing the person we are grieving for is so overwhelming and it continues for years to come. Although, the bereaved can recover some strength to focus on life again, it may take some time, especially in the first year of grief, the first six months are the worst and hardest. As time goes by, 3 to 5 years after the initial death of the person they lost, it takes time to be able to feel more able to deal with life again. Try to ignore anyone who tells you ”Don’t you think its time to be moving forward with your life now”. This is wrong, no one understands what your loss means to you, except you, take all the time you need to heal, there is no time frame that we should adhere to, so be kind to yourself, make allowances for yourself and avoid being around anyone that is pressuring you to ”get over it” or ”move forward”. No-one else has a right to tell you how you need to heal. How long it takes, really depends on the individual, their relationship with the one they lost and the circumstances surrounding the death of the one that passed over.
The Bereaved will feel like they’re in a bubble of pain and shock the first few months, they feel that life is never the same as it once was before they lost the person they love, they also feel they’re not who they once were, and the process of healing isn’t just dealing with pain, but it is discovering who we are now and what do we do with this new chapter of our lives.
The griever’s life has completely changed and they feel like a different person with this pain, they have to navigate through the pain daily and find a way to live with the pain. They’re no longer interested in anything, they lose sight of dreams and goals, and feel completely lost. In the first few years, the bereaved never knows when they will be triggered to cry, and when they cry the tears maybe uncontrollable, it can happen any moment. This process is not an ordered stage of grief that one can tick off on a check list. It’s more like going through a tornado of Kübler Rosses mixed and scrambled five stages, very complex waves of these messy emotions and fragmented feelings that are completely uncontrollable and unexpected. I call it the Grief Monster or the Grief Earthquake, followed by constant aftershocks.
This is like no other grief, and there is a great deal of guilt that those left behind are burdened with. It is extremely tragic for all concerned. There’s an overwhelming sense of deep shock or disbelief regarding their death, which can still occur for several years after the person´s death. Suicide grief is like an internal earthquake that fragments the heart and soul into a thousand pieces. The deep shock that they initially feel replays in the body’s cells again and again, and mixed with the rest of the emotions it will feel like aftershocks of a giant Earthquake which can go on for a few years or more afterwards. This requires long-term therapy and counselling on one to one and possibly in a group with others who have experienced the same. Self-blame and guilt is a perilous stage of this grief, since the phenomena of feeling suicidal, goes with the self-blame. Therefore, seek counselling, and talk to others who have lost family members or a spouse to suicide, talk therapy and as much emotional support as is possible to be able to get through each day and stay with the world of the living.
Acceptance is near impossible with suicide grief; its the toughest one to resolve, no one wants to accept death, especially suicide. When the death of a spouse or a child or a family member is suicide, we are left to blame ourselves for not doing the right thing to keep that person from taking their own life. Acceptance of what passed is very challenging, as the person who ended their life may have kept how they were feeling a secret. They may have felt they were a burden to everyone else, and by doing this they think that they are relieving everyone they love of their burden, in fact, if only they knew their action instead creates a legacy of much more pain.
The person who ended their life, did so because they were utterly desperate to stop feeling the pain they were in and they felt there was no other solution. We know there are certainly far better solutions. For many bereaved left behind, after losing someone to suicide, there is a period of dangerous despair that also drives the mourner to feel suicidal themselves; this is a phenomenon that many go through, at this phase try and find a therapist who specializes in ‘suicide grief’, or a local ‘suicide bereavement’ group, where you can connect with others who have experienced losing someone to suicide, there are forums online. everywhere including on some social media, but it helps to speak to people in a local group that you can physically go to, to share your experiences with others face to face and to work through your feelings and healing together.
I have been through this, very acutely. When I was going through the first stages of grief, I ended up in tears at the doorstep of a grief counsellors office. I was the first person in all his years of grief counselling who had turned up in a very bad state asking for help without an appointment. I had spent about 6 weeks before in a comatose state of raw grief wanting to commit suicide and I was in a new country and city which didn’t help because I had no friends or family around me that I could go to, I was completely alone in my first ten months of grief, which is quite harsh, not many people find themselves alone while going through grief they are usually surrounded by friends or family, although they often say they feel alone. My counsellor was Alvero at Sentido based in Lima, Barranco, Peru, he runs a suicide grief counselling centre. Alvero helped me a lot and invited me to the free local group for people who have lost loved ones to suicide, that he hosted for people like me who met every two weeks. They had lost their sons, daughters, husbands or wives, and siblings to suicide. I met these people and heard their stories in Spanish, we cried together, embraced and connected on that profound level of understanding the lowest of grief pain.
Everyone had a safe space to share what they were feeling at different stages of their grief and to talk about the insensitivity of others and the social stigma that they were experiencing as a result. It helped me come to terms with some of my pain and it helped me work through my own suicidal feelings.
Social stigma associated with suicide and suicide grief
The most vital thing about group counselling is it allowed me to connect with other people that knew exactly what I was going through and how I felt. For me it was a lifeline and I hope others will find the same supportive groups locally. Such groups are useful to those of us who are grieving due to a suicide death. Friends and family around you do not really understand, its hard for them to imagine what it is like if it hasn’t happened to them, most normal grief doesn’t have the same amount of guilt or trauma around the event of a loved one passing, these issues make it much harder to work through this type of grief. Moreover, there is a social stigma surrounding this topic in all societies and cultures, no matter how open they may seem on the surface, people are very judgemental about suicide.
Due to the social stigma, it is rarely discussed in public and that makes suicide grief the hardest kind to understand, and for people who carry suicide grief, it is the hardest burden to process and the most complex form of grief to work through. We can lose people we regarded as close friends and even some family members who don´t understand why we also feel suicidal or cannot move on with our grief. I lost a number of people I previously thought were close friends and even family members seemed more distant,
This is common for people going through suicide grief, unlike normal grief where people are more sympathetic. There should be no expected recovery time period or rush with grief, especially suicide grief, which takes a lot longer than most other kinds of grief to work through and is notoriously hard to process. As I explained earlier, acceptance and self-blame are some of the obstacles in suicide grief. Once I was told just a year and a half after my husband died ´´to move on´´, by someone else who lost their wife, and similar advice from a friend who lost their father at a young age, however their loved one’s deaths were not by suicide, but people who go through normal grief assume suicide grief is the same, so they need to be aware of the obstacles and differences, in normal grief, one can blame the illness or accident or whatever killed their loved one, in suicide grief, one always blames themselves and feels very guilty. I’ve had so many insensitive comments that people have said to me in those early months and first few years, its best not to get angry at them, they really couldn’t possibly understand, unless they lost someone the same way. So it is important to discuss the complexity of it and for people who are friends of the person who is grieving, friends need to be patient with the person who is grieving, and be as supportive as possible, don’t pressure the bereaved, allow them all the time in the world to process their pain.
If you are someone who has lost someone to suicide, it helps to change your environment to a completely different one, change your living space, or redecorate your living space if you really cannot move location, but moving location helps a lot to move forward in life. Firstly, I didn´t want to do this since, I wanted to be close to all the memories of our last days together, but in the long run, it is healthiest for your progress and healing to relocated to another town, city, or country. Relocating is always hard for anyone and when we are suddenly a widow or grieving the loss of someone close to us, its harder as we don´t feel we can connect to anyone as it is.
With all forms of grief, there is constant yearning to be reunited with the deceased, and missing them is an overwhelming feeling for years. If you lost your partner or loved one in a traumatic way, in suicide or in some tragic circumstances that you may have witnessed, the mourner will also be dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, where you will relive flashbacks to their death and the circumstances around it. Especially, in the morning when you wake up and at night before you go to sleep, these are the worst times. I tried to make sure I distracted myself during the day, if these invasive thoughts entered my head, meditation didn´t help, I found mantras and Qigong Breathing or Yogic Kapalbhalti breathing techniques helpful, I also have devised a Morning Mindful Practice to help work through this process, if you want a free copy of my Morning Mindful Practice please contact me and I will gladly send it to you, so you can start making lifestyle changes to help you form some positive frameworks to help overcome overwhelming feelings of sadness and loss.
Avoidance of situations, people and places are best during the rawest periods of grief and even years after that remind one of their painful loss, as we never know when the grief waves will arise.
Challenges of Bereavement
Bereavement is a normal process, and there are times when a person will become stuck in one stage of the grieving process for a long period of time, which can become detrimental to their own emotional well-being and ability to function in everyday life. No matter how well you think you may be coping try to seek support to work through some areas that you may benefit from talking through with a professional to find a way to come to terms with the emotions.
A person is more likely to grief abnormally when the person was unable to view the body of the deceased or attend the funeral and be able to express grief at the appropriate time when death was sudden or due to suicide. Or if there was a problematic relationship or unresolved issues with the deceased, or if there was a very dependent relationship with the deceased. Or if the loss was the child of the person, or their parent, or the person has lost an unusual number of people in a short time period.
People suffering acute grief may be very resistant to counselling as they feel it would threaten their last remaining memories and connection with their lost one. The goal of the therapist is to get the patient to work with them through step by step goal setting and new motivational, behavioural changes. The old approach to counselling acute grief was to keep the patient talking about their loss; in contrast, the modern approach merges cognitive behavioural therapy with interpersonal psychotherapy, growth and motivational activation to change behaviour. The combined approach of having the patient talk about their past to try and come to terms with their loss but also working to encourage them to create behavioural changes to try and re-engage them with the world of the living again has been a more effective approach.
“Pain is like the cold deep in the winter, if it is endured for too long, we will die,
Joy is a soaring moment that inspires you forever, or makes you cry,
Love is both of these things because without them we cannot grow, neither can love”. – C S
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If you would like to have grief counselling with Carlita please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
or book a free 30 minute consultation call here