Dr Kay Brewster, Clinical Psychologist at the Trust talks about experience a loss and shares her advice.

Loss is arguably the most difficult experiencing we have to face, and something that affects us all, throughout our lives. It can take different forms: bereavement, change of circumstances, relationship breakdown, physical illness, loss of a planned future, loss of choice or control, or a change of role or identity.  Grief is the pain we feel when experiencing loss, and comes from our subconscious attempts to remain connected with that which we value or care about.

Our brains and bodies are wired for connection: to others, and to tasks and activities that give us a sense of purpose and identity. When we lose this connection, such as during the current pandemic, we feel threatened. We have evolved highly effective strategies to manage threat such as ‘fight or flight’ and it is only natural that when experiencing grief we automatically do anything we can to try to avoid this pain.  

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. Everyone who has experienced loss recognises that it doesn’t help to be told: ‘you just need to move on,’ or ‘why can’t you just get over it?’ yet this is often what we tell ourselves.  As a society, we pride ourselves on our ability to ‘keep calm and carry on’ and many of us have come to believe that outward displays of emotion are a sign of weakness.

When we sustain a physical injury, the associated pain serves as a warning: to slow down, to recognise our vulnerability, and to take care. If we ignore this signal and carry on regardless, the pain (and damage), gets worse. So too with the pain of loss: the more we ignore, fight, or dismiss it, the worse we feel.

We know that all pain tends to ease given time. However, this will not happen if we simply sit and wait for time to pass – we need to actively engage with the loss and pain in order to process it and find a way forwards.

Balance is key: finding a way to maintain a connection to that which has been lost, whilst staying grounded in the here-and-now:

  • Acknowledge the loss – talk about it, or write down how you are feeling
  • Make time to slow down, rest, and repair
  • Try not to give yourself a hard time for how you are feeling
  • Do whatever feels right for you
  • Think about any extra support you might need and who/where from
  • Try mindfulness as a way of staying connected to the here-and-now
  • Try to let go of what you cannot control and maintain as much structure and routine as possible
  • Pause, and breathe, slowly and deeply

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