MAKING IT BETTER: Negotiating Loss and Bereavement

‘You will not get over the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same, nor would you want to.’ Kubler-Ross & Kesler

In the course of my career I have written about and talked about this topic countless times and every time I think I have finally written the last article I possibly can on the subject something happens to a friend, to me, in the wider community that brings me right back to it and makes it as fresh as the very first time. I have finally come to the conclusion (which really isn’t rocket science) that death; dying and loss is simply the brother/sister of living, life and joy. They are all inevitable as human beings; it’s what life is all about.

Just before I sent in this copy for publication, I got a message that a dear colleague I had not seen in several months had died rather suddenly after a brief illness. I thought it was quite eerie that just as I was writing on this subject I would be impacted with that news once again. I believe all death is to remind us of our own lives and how we are living it. We are really not promised tomorrow. Embrace the gift of the present, of today!

The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. They speak for themselves. These are tools used to help us identify and possibly frame what we may be feeling.

It’s important to note that not everyone goes through all of these stages or in any specific order or neat order. We can jump from one stage to another and return to other stages as we negotiate the process. People grieving simply need to know that your grief is as unique as you are.

When we lose something that is precious to us we are left with a feeling of deep sadness. The loss can be hard to bear, and the feeling can be as powerful if it’s a loved one or even a treasured object. You may feel as if you have lost a part of your body.

I have worked in the ‘death’ industry as I like to call it for many years. I worked with women from war torn countries whose very existence was as stark as life and death decisions on a daily basis. I offered telephone counselling and support to people who were bereaved.

I worked with individuals and families to help them plan, organise and execute funerals for loved ones and sometimes for themselves if they were living in hospices or had terminal illnesses. I worked with women in prisons nationally in the UK. Many of the women had suffered untold pain, loss and bereavement. As an ordained  Minister one of my roles will be to help individuals and families to prepare bespoke funerals which I will officiate.

There was a point in my career and even now when friends and family raised some concern about my interest in the subject. There were times when I must admit I had some questions myself. I wondered why on some unconscious level when applying for work both paid and volunteering I seemed to gravitate to this particular line of work. Could it be there was something to it, that there was some deep life’s learning I was meant to get.

When I look at my life’s work to date culminating in becoming a Minister it all started to make sense. There certainly was a higher purpose to my journey and I decided to be still so as to hear what was being delivered to me by the divine, the universe.

I have only recently come to a peaceful and accepting place regarding my career. On a personal level, I understand from my craft and training that I am working through my own issues with bereavement within the work I have chosen to do. Some of my grief is unresolved, with some I have reached a point of resolution or acceptance and some are a work in progress.

Over the past 15 years or more I have experienced several personal losses – brothers, sister, uncles, cousin, and friends. I have lost both my parents too. It has felt excessive and taken its toll, and I have indulged in the ‘why me?’ question at times.

As with all unresolved and unprocessed psychological issues we may have, if not addressed, they will rear their ugly heads when and where we least expect them to. Unresolved grief can catch up with you in the oddest places and in the most spectacular ways.

I am finding there might be something about this particular time in my life when my own mortality has become a bit more real and up close and personal, that I am coming more to terms with some of my unresolved losses.

I overheard some kids gassing (that’s kids speak for talking) the other day, and the discussion was around going out for the night which happened to be freezing cold and they had very little on. I asked them if they realised that they could get hypothermia dressed as scantily as they were. They looked quizzically at me and laughed (you know the kind of laugh that tells you are officially old in their eyes!). Then one of them said’ we always dress like this, the cold never affects us.’ I joined in their laughter but for a different reason. It wasn’t that long ago that I uttered pretty much similar sentiments! I wished them a good night as I tugged on my heavy duty coat, feeling every joint ache and fantasising of the heating in my room.

‘Don’t be afraid of death, be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever; you just have to live. – Natalie Babbitt

Gloria is a columnist with Punch Newspapers, she writes on mental health issues. She is a Life Coach, Psychotherapist, Spiritual Counsellor and Ordained Minister

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