Feeling trapped in your grief

Feeling trapped in your grief

Wilhelm Mundt – Trashstone 531

This sculpture reminds me of that feeling trapped in grief. I shared on Facebook, that I wanted to write a blog about it. I asked readers what this sculpture evoked in them? The responses were very different: ‘If you are trapped in your own thoughts you can feel stuck’. ‘A certain beauty, but caged’. ‘Caged green’.

All three express something of what I feel about this artwork. When you are grieving, you can be so engrossed in your thoughts and feelings that you no longer notice anything about the world around you.

For a while, the world stands stll for you, whilst other people just get on with life. Everyone seems to be on their way to something, some walk quietly and others are rushing. Grieving is like being on the way to somewhere we just don’t know how the future will look, we tend to live from day to day.

A friend of mine, who had lost her father, directed her anger at the trees,it didn’t seem fair because they got new leaves and went on with life, whilst she was locked in her grief.

A loss changes your outlook on life, there is an end to how it was and it will never be the same again. Your life seems to have less colour and even seems to have lost its lustre.

It’s not so strange that after a significant loss you can lose it for a while.
Feelings, emotions and thoughts, which may not have previously experienced at this intensity tend to fluctuate rapidly, yet these are very normal reactions to loss.

Fortunately, we humans are resilient and it can be really helpful to get support to move on with your process, so that you can find your way in life again.

Reflecting on the loss of a loved one

Reflecting on the loss of a loved one

Clients often tell me that it is hard to talk with family and friends about the loss of a loved one; maybe a parent, partner or child. Somehow people want to avoid the subject, or don’t know what to say, unless they too have had a similar experience, then they have a better understanding.

Wouldn’t it be great if this wasn’t the case, if they could just go ahead & talk about it. However, if you have the courage to just go ahead and talk about it, then they often feel more comfortable and the conversation just happens.

I have personal experience of this; A few weeks after Paul, my partner died, a colleague called me. He shared that he hadn’t dared to before as he didn’t know what to say. This was so endearing and nice to hear that we immediately had a long conversation.

Shortly after the passing, there’s room for compassion and sharing. Still, the lives of others continue while yours seems to have halted. For the bereaved the loss remains prominent , especially on anniversaries, birthdays and bank holidays and any other ‘firsts’ that come along. On days like these it is comforting to receive attention, being it a visit, a card or a call.

This poem from Stephen Levine from Meeting at the Edge, Healing into Life and Death, appealed to me, because it reflects the experience of loss.

 

This is the great confusion of a lifetime


To lose a child, to lose a parent,


to lose a lover


To break that mirror,

which has so ofte

n
reflected your beaut

y
and made you feel so safe

ArtSouth, The world upside down

ArtSouth, The world upside down

Ronald A. Westerhuis – Shine 2021

Part 2 of the ArtZuid series

This second sculpture reminds me of a world upside down. When grieving you can experience this, as due to a drastic loss your life has changed forever. Your world is quite literally upside down.

The American grieving expert William Worden distinguishes four grieving tasks, which you possibly might recognise. 

Task 1: Facing the reality of your loss
The loss feels so unreal, that our mind suppresses it in the first instance. Some denial can serve a purpose in that it allows you to slowly absorb the full weight of the loss. Mentally you know it, but the emotional awareness comes later. A friend once told me that when her father had passed away, she was angry at the world and the trees, as they went on living through the seasons and got new leaves. The world around her continues and her life stood still and felt upside down. After a while you will realise that the loss has occurred, which is the first step towards adapting and moving forward. 

Task 2: To work through the Pain of Grief
Acknowledging your feelings and working through a range of different emotions is important. Among others sadness, fear, loneliness, despair, hopelessness, anger, guilt, blame, shame and relief. Also physical pain can be a way to express your feelings.  These complex feelings can be confusing, tiring and also painful. 

Task 3: Adjust to an Environment without the Deceased
The permanency of being without what has been lost can be overwhelming. In the beginning everything will remind you of your loved one. With every song I heard, I could relate the lyrics to Paul, my partner who had died and I felt the absence. Interactions with others change as the environment reacts differently to a couple than to a single person. You may need to learn a wide array of new skills and tasks or outsource them. You miss the atmosphere you had together and also the future goals are not the same anymore. You have to adjust and adapt to the new normal, which entails reorienting and restructuring what you do without your loved one.

Task 4: To integrate the loss in your life.
This is about finding an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life. Your loved one will always be a part of your live, only physically your loved one is not there anymore. The connection will be shaped differently, they also call this the symbolic bond. Do you carry for example something symbolic, which reminds you of your loved one?
The grief will become less and doesn’t control your whole life anymore. Of course there will still be difficult days but you can begin to meaningfully engage in things that bring pleasure and open up to new relationships. 

There are many grief theories and none are proven to be the absolute truth. These are certainly helpful and relevant tasks, but if you do not feel like you have completed them that is not a reason to panic. It may mean you are still working through the process or it may mean that this is not the model that best reflects your own experience.  Grief is unique for all of us. In case you want help or would like to talk about it, feel free to contact me.