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Grief recovery therapy

How grief feels?

Grief feels and looks different for every person who experiences it. The upsetting thing is we will all experience it at some point. Perhaps we are supporting someone going through it right now. Grief literally makes the body and mind ill. It causes the body to ‘breakdown’ forming different symptoms for different people. The grieving process can feel lonely and isolating and for some it could lead to maladaptive coping strategies such as isolation, complex relationships with food or substance abuse while trying to ‘numb’ the intense feelings of lose.

At times, emotional and physical pain can feel inextricable. We can grieve before, during or after a loss leaving us incapable of being able to think, feel and react. Some people will experience profound sadness almost immediately but for some it may take months or years after the loss.

Our internal resiliency is tested to the maximum and how we react when this happens cannot be predicted. However, as time passes, the mind and body will ‘adapt’ working through the grief process.

Here are the most common reactions grief makes us feel. There may be several feelings not listed here as grief is an individual process:

  • Emotional pain– makes it hard for a person to function ‘normally’ including feeding themselves, looking after others or going to work.
  • Deep sadness– this can give rise to feelings of depression, hopelessness, loneliness and loosing self-worth.
  • Shock– Death can often be sudden and unexpected. Even if someone has been ill for a long time, friends and family may still feel a sense of shock after they have died.
  • Relief– If the person’s death comes after a long illness, those close to them may feel relief.
  • Guilt–Feelings of guilt often lead to anxiety or depression.  A grieving individual may regret things they did or did not say before someone died. They may blame themself in some way for the person’s death.
  • Anger– A grieving person may feel angry towards themself, other people, or the person who died. Their anger may come out suddenly or at unexpected moments.
  • Anxiety– Many people have feelings of anxiety after losing someone close to them. They may feel generally anxiety or worry about the future and not know how they will cope.
  • Numbness– This can be a reaction to very difficult emotions and may mean people don’t cry or appear to be upset. Their feelings will usually return over time often coming back stronger.
How grief affects us?

Grief affects the immune system, leaving you depleted and vulnerable to infection, illness, colds and flu. The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and intense grief can alter the heart muscle.

Grief can affect our body, mind, emotions, and spirit. People might notice or show grief in several ways:

Physical reactions: Loss of appetite, an upset stomach, tight chest, crying, tense muscles, aching joints, trouble relaxing, low energy, mind racing, nausea, headaches, dizziness, loss of motivation, disassociation, thoughts from the past, restlessness, exhaustion, insomnia or loss of concentration to mention a few.

However, lots of sleep, good healthy wholesome food and exercise helps the body and mind restore itself and helps create a new sense of self.

The 5 stages of grief?

The 5 stages of grief and the 4 tasks of grieving are important to know and understand. Often someone in the grieving process does not know where they are or why they feel the way they do. Explaining the process will start the understanding and the healing.

The Swiss psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1970) wrote her book On Death and Dying following her observations and interviews with terminally ill patients:

The 5 Stages are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

In 1983, in his book Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy, William Worden introduced the idea that grief was a process to be worked through by undertaking ‘the four tasks of grieving.

Task 1: Accept the reality of the loss:

When someone dies, even if the death is expected, a bereaved person may have difficulty accepting the death and this is sometimes referred to as the denial part.

Task 2: Experience the pain of grief:

The bereaved must allow themselves to experience and express feelings such as anger, guilt, loneliness, anxiety and depression. These feelings are ‘normal’.

Task 3: Adjust to an environment without a loved one:

This means different things to different people, depending on what the relationship was. For Worden (2008), some bereaved people – for example those who are widowed – may resent or fear having to develop new skills and take on roles that were formerly performed by the deceased. The task is to sever attachment to the deceased person, which can be very painful but is necessary in order to adjust after the death. By not doing so, the bereaved will remain stuck in the grief process and be unable to resolve their loss.

Task 4: Emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life:

The final task is to continue to memorialise and remember the deceased, but in a way that does not prevent the bereaved re-engaging in life. This means that they will continue to think, dream or talk about the deceased person and to reminisce, especially on birthdays and anniversaries, but whilst also re-engaging in life. This may mean returning to work, resuming a hobby and/or finding new pursuits.

How to treat grief?

These intense emotions caused by grief can sometimes feel overwhelming, so it’s important a small steps recovery plan is created using the ‘Integrated Therapy System’ or ‘ITS’. This encompases a variety of techniques and therapy to help the body and mind reconnect and help to put one foot in front of the other.

A somatic approach is needed, working directly with the body and the mind using different treatments and exercises to aid recovery. Direct trauma treatment will be done when the client is strong enough to deal with the strongest emotions, memories and feelings but it could take a while before this is possible.

The following stages are needed for full recovery and included in the ‘ITS” trauma recovery program:

Stage 1:  The Past.

Discover if the body or mind is strongest – this will dictate a ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ approach to therapy using an assessment.

Teach techniques to allow the body and mind to cope better and express itself.

Deal directly with the strongest emotions, memories and feelings using EMDR, Kinetic Shift and The Rewind Technique.

Stage 2: The Now

What does ‘Now’ look like.

Continued coping strategies – introducing Hypnosis and TimeLine Therapy.

Dealing with secondary anxieties, emotions, memories and feelings often ‘packed away’ by the overriding feelings of grief.

Focus on food, nutrition and exercise and how to get back on track. It’s vitally important to feed the body and mind for full recovery.

Small steps every day – planning to keep busy, deal with children or family or to get back to work.

Stage 3: The Future

What does it look like?

How to fill the void which was created by the loss.

Integrate coping strategies into daily life.

Self-awareness and self-care – how to avoid relapsing into grief.

The benefits of working with me?

  • Grief recovery helps you verbalise, offload and talk in a private environment without having to watch what you say or guard your emotions. At times friends or relatives may indicate you should be ‘getting over it now’ but this is not always the case. My sessions are designed and structured to allow you time to do just this, however, each session will focus on repairing and moving forward.
  • Having worked in grief recovery, I understand how hard it is to recover.
  • Sometimes you many not feel able or want to speak out loud. I help manage the feelings, emotions and memories using the ‘Integrated Therapy System’.
  • I give you the time, understanding and toolkit to recover quickly.

I work differently, using my skill set to move your mind and focus forward. For the brain to repair and reconnect it needs to set goals and see value in the future. Using these as my guidelines we work together to create your new direction quickly.

How long will it take?

Grief recovery is individual to each person but generally takes between 6 – 12 months. Recovery and rebuilding your life takes time but you must allow your brain and body to reconnect.

Grief recovery is purchased as a package. Sessions are priced as 7 one-hour meetings (either in person or online) to enable a plan to be followed, greatly increasing success rates for clients. The  initial discovery call can take place either in person or over Zoom (video conferencing), the telephone or face-to-face at Bedford Heights. This ensures you get to know exactly how I work and for us both to see if we can work together. The discovery call allows you to explain exactly what you want to achieve during our work together. This is a no obligation session and not charged if you choose not to book a package. We no longer offer individually priced sessions or one-offs. However the 7 session package offers very good value for money.

Book a free DISCOVERY CALL to find out how I can help you further.

* Disclaimer – results can differ from person to person. Your drive and determination to make change happen for yourself will always result in a more positive outcome.