Loss and Bereavement

The connection between loss and bereavement is that both put us in a state of grief.

Grief describes an individual’s personal response to loss and is emotional, physical, and behavioural.

Mourning is the outward expression of that grief. It is through the period of mourning that grief is resolved.

Bereavement refers to the period after loss during which grief and mourning occur.

Loss through change

Change always involves loss, sometimes of good things, sometimes bad, but always loss. Change we did not choose, makes it harder to bear because although we may have adjusted and adapted to the change, we do not have a sense of control or investment in it. We struggle to connect emotionally with the new situation even as we physically adapt. Recognising that what we as a country, as a firm, as a community, as a family, are experiencing is in fact loss, is vital to coping and moving forward.

If we know what we have lost and can express that loss we are more able to sit with the new, without resentment and without the desire to blame; resentment keeps us stuck and inflexible. If we can allow ourselves to be open to the positive potential of change, then we can become creative and involved with it, giving us some control at a personal and professional level once again. And we have done this during the lockdowns, we have sought to share our involvement with others – we zoom each other, we play online together, we make rainbows, and put them on our windows to show the world. We do much better when we feel a sense of control over our situation however small, and we feel even better when we are sharing the experience.

Loss through death

The connection between loss of what we know and loss of who we know is that both lead us into a state of grief. Grief brings with it certain feelings and behaviours that seem to follow a pattern. Let’s not call them stages, it doesn’t help – grief tends not to operate in a linear way, we oscillate between going towards grief and away from grief. You may feel all or some of these in your grief: shock, denial, anger, depression, guilt, bargaining, and acceptance.

Grief is a normal healthy process so long as we do not remain in a depressed state for too long. We need to grieve, our grief is personal, familial, and cultural and all are to be respected.

During lockdown, some of us will have lost loved ones to the virus and some for other reasons and that has brought another layer of challenge and pain. A key part of grieving is ritual and saying a public goodbye is so important for those left behind. If we can’t be at the funeral to support others and get support from others, to sing, to listen to stories, to rubber-stamp our love and respect with memories of those who have died, we feel another loss.

If we can find ways to meet that need despite the lack of physical connection, then that will help us feel we have done the closest thing to the right thing for those we have lost. I know that people have held their own zoom memorials and wakes, and others who have been ‘present’ at the funeral through video call, some have written memories, poems, music, and words and shared them with family and friends. Expression of our grief, in whatever unique form it takes us, usually begins with this type of ritual, and taking part in a communal, public display that recognises those we have lost is a need we must attend to even in lockdown.

Over the last three lockdowns, without close physical connection with family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, we have had to work harder and more creatively to make contact with others. We have moved our compulsion to connect into the online world very successfully, and we are talking to each other by phone more than ever. If you are experiencing loss and grief at the moment, then make use of others – we may not physically be with you, but we are with you.

Take care of yourself and others, connect to your community at home, at work or wherever you may find it.

Animator, illustrator, and director Jenny Wright was midway through her university studies at Central Saint Martin’s College in London when her mother died. She created this short animation to express her love and loss.

https://vimeo.com/275280981

Buzzfeed – loss of a parent

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=elE6iSytJks&feature=emb_title

An excellent, short video from Buzzfeed Australia – talking to those bereaved by suicide

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jjh1W_TbUNY