Cold, wet and miserable?

Gloomy and threatening or dramatic and wild?

Gloomy and threatening or dramatic and wild?

My morning’s dog walk could have been cold wet, dark and miserable. It was 7am, still very dark, raining, with quite a cold breeze.

Change Perception

Yet, it was really quite ok.  As I made way around one of my usual routes I found myself thinking about how much our perception can change our feelings about an event or experience. If I had been feeling grumpy and determined to experience my walk this morning as cold, wet, dark and miserable then that is undoubtedly what it would have been.  Instead,  it was enjoyable walking the streets in the half-light as the sun was coming up. I enjoyed seeing who was also out and about. The rain felt refreshing.   The air crisp and wintry.

Traumatic Experience

Unfortunately some experiences we are faced with my be too difficult or traumatic for us to shift our perception of them. The recent floods in many parts of the UK, brought on by similar rain to that I enjoyed this morning, will be an example of this.  Some people’s lives will have been dramatically impacted by what has happened.

Therapy for difficult memories

Sometimes experiences in the present can be too evocative of painful experience in the past.  We may be unable to move past the significance of certain events without professional help of therapy.  For example, significant anniversaries may be triggering past losses,  day to day events may trigger anxieties about past traumas.  If you have had an experience where shifting how you perceive it might be useful, therapy can often be very helpful in that process.

But this morning was happily one of those days when what could have been cold wet and miserable was refreshing energising and connecting.

Bereavement

Bereavement Counselling WilmslowHave you experienced a loss or bereavement recently, or know someone who has.? A beloved friend or relative? A parent or child? We can feel lost and not know how to express our condolences when we meet someone who has recently experienced a bereavement.  It can help to talk.

I provide bereavement counselling as part of my therapy practice.  In this post I wanted to provide some information on what you might experience if you are the person who has experienced the loss.  I also though it might be helpful if you know someone who is going through this experience.

When someone you know has recently died the world can suddenly be a very confusing and difficult place. You might find that you cannot stop thinking about the person who has gone.  Eating and sleeping may be difficult.  You might feel exhausted one minute and restless and agitated the next. You may think you should be coping better and be worried that you are not.

Thoughts, Feelings and Physical Sensations

It is quite normal to experience feelings of sadness, anger, guilt and helplessness when someone you know has died.  Along with these feelings people often find themselves experiencing anxiety, loneliness and fatigue. Sometimes the experience of losing someone can be shocking and traumatic so that the person may feel numb.

You may also find yourself feeling confused, being unable to believe the person is dead, or alternatively find yourself feeling a sense of their presence or hallucinations.  Repetitive and intrusive thoughts about the person and the way they died are also very common.

Difficulties with eating or sleeping and feeling restless are also normal, along with other physical symptoms such as a lack of energy, muscle weakness, tightness in the chest, hollowness in the stomach, dry mouth and sensitivity to noise.

All of these thoughts, feelings and sensations are  normal part of the grieving process.  Experiencing bereavement can be very difficult.  Each person’s response will be different, each person mourns in a different way.  Although it is a cliché time will bring relief from the intensity of the feeling.

Mourning

There is no time limit to the grieving process.  William Worden writes of there being tasks of mourning.  The first being begin to accept the reality of the person’s death – that the person you knew is gone and will not return.

The second task is to work through the pain of the grief.  Even though it may feel incredibly painful over time it is important to allow yourself time to think and feel about the death, to recognise and experience your feelings which will allow you to move forward.

The third task is to adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing. This is not about “getting over” or replacing but about adjustment to the changes in the person’s daily life.

Finally the last task is to find an enduring connection to the deceased while moving on with a new life.

Anniversaries, Christmas, birthdays important events will most likely be a time of remembrance and sadness.  Moving on with a new life does not mean forgetting – it mean being able to engage with living again and a moderation of the grief from it’s raw intensity.

Bereavement Counselling Wilmslow

I provide bereavement counselling in Wilmslow and in working with people I know that support through this painful process is very important.  For many people having family and friends available can be support enough.  Not everyone has this though and some deaths are difficult, possibly very unexpected, traumatic or difficult in some way. In these situations it can helpful to talk to a counsellor or therapist to help the person move through the grieving process.

Death of a Pet

Dave.

Friendship

Sadly, my lovely dog Dave died a few weeks ago after being ill for about a year. He was with us for nearly eleven years, which didn’t seem anywhere near long enough. He was a constant friend, a playmate and loving companion and we miss him very much.

Attachment to animals

As the first intensity of my grief is fading, I have been thinking about people and their attachment to animals.  I can remember my uncle and his budgie;  he would sit with it on his finger for hours talking to it,  it would walk on his shoulder and then on to his head.   As  was growing up I nearly always had a pet:  a gold fish, a budgie, then a dog.  As I grew older and had my own place first I had cats, and now I have dogs.   Animals have always been a huge part of my life and many people have similar experiences,  where animals are a large part of their lives from childhood through to adult hood.  I think that our relationship with our pets and animals is a very significant one.  It offer us an experience of connection, contact and what it feels like to look after and care for another creature that is vulnerable and dependent on us.

Grieving Process

Part of my grieving process has been to talk to friends and family and remember Dave. To talk about how much I miss him, how painful it has been that he has died and as I have talked about him people have shared their thoughts,  feelings and experiences of their animals too.

A colleague talked about how dogs look at us, the warmth of their gaze as they stare into our eyes. Another shared her thoughts about how deeply we love and attach to our pets.   She believes it is a relationship that is less complex than with another person, because with a person we  may defend ourselves against being vulnerable in case of being hurt and may protect ourselves by being defensive.  Not so with our animals. I think we love them as they love us –  unconditionally.

What part have animals played in your life?  Have you any stories of family pets or animals you have known that you want to share?

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