Grief Counselling in Kitchener

As hard as it may be to accept, loss and the subsequent feelings of grief is an inescapable part of life. Particularly now, given the current global pandemic, a lot of us are experiencing these emotions in high volumes.

What is it like to grieve?

People experience grief very differently, but it is generally accepted that grief is the “acute pain that accompanies loss.” Because grief is a reflection of what we love, the emotions that come with it can feel all-encompassing. 

Typical symptoms of grief include:

  • Increased irritability
  • Numbness
  • Bitterness
  • Detachment
  • Preoccupation with loss
  • Inability to show or experience joy

While these emotional symptoms are normal in the days and weeks following a traumatic event, they can be indicators of a more serious disorder if they do not fade over time.

Below is a real-life example from a young girl who experienced the loss of her best friend at the end of 2019. This case study highlights some of the real-life emotions that one can experience, and draws attention to the positive impact of grief counselling.

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Jamie was 9 days away from turning 25 and celebrating her birthday with all her friends in the wilderness, when her best friend Wesley was shot and killed in his home. Wesley was an active, young and vibrant 30-year-old trail runner, who seemed to have an infinite source of joy and zest for life – something that he passed on to Jamie at a time when she was ready to give up on life altogether. Jamie had suffered from depression and anxiety for 5 years prior to meeting Wes, but Wesley’s utterly raw and honest love for adventure, his friends and his family, convinced Jamie that there must be something she was missing. So she allowed him to show her his way and she slowly rediscovered her joy. 

When Jamie learned that her best friend had bled to death on his staircase from a gunshot wound, her first emotional response was one of disbelief. She refused to accept that he had passed, and kept asking her parents to take her to the hospital she believed he had been taken to. When it finally sunk in that the bullet had gone through his heart and he had died instantly, she proceeded to cry for 2 days without stopping.

Jamie and Wesley lived just down the road from one another, and this close proximity facilitated the building of an unbreakable and deep connection – one made stronger by the constant time spent in one another’s company.  They went away together almost every weekend, and were running in the mountains with one another during the weekdays. Jamie thought things would continue this way until far into the future, when the runs would turn into shuffles as a result of old age. 

But life had other plans.

Jamie’s life felt empty without Wesley. For a while after he died, her days were filled with family time and she was kept busy with activities. When things became quieter, and everyone else started to carry on with business as usual, she felt helpless and didn’t quite know what to do with herself. The past few years with Wes had pulled her out of a really dark place, and she was worried with his sudden passing that she was going to fall right back into it. There was also part of her that felt anger and resentment towards those who still had their best friends with them. How could they have their “person” and she had to lose hers? 

Naturally, due to the manner in which Wesley left Jamie’s world, she felt deep despair and yearning for him. She often replayed regrets in her mind, all the things she wished she had said and done. She thought about their last conversation, just the night before he was taken from her, and how they had planned another beautiful run for the following morning.  She thought about her future he would never be a part of, about his approval she would now never receive for the man she would love, and all the little adventures that were no longer a possibility. She couldn’t imagine what her life would be like without him.

Jamie tried to keep herself busy to distract from her pain. Fortunately, her parents and close friends all lived nearby, and she was able to get the support she needed. However, she knew on the inside the effort it was taking to supress how she was really feeling. When she heard his favourite song on the radio she would feel like she had been hit in the stomach. Keeping busy helped Jamie get through the days, however at night she would lie awake, unable to sleep and replay his hundreds of voice notes he had sent her over the years. Jamie started to feel very fatigued from all the pent up emotion and lack of sleep. Eventually her grief started to catch up with her and she felt consumed by it. She couldn’t get up in the mornings and felt like all the joy had been drained from her life. She recognised these feelings from the past: the depression was back in full force.

Understanding grief and how grief counselling can help

In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described five common stages of grief, popularly referred to as DABDA. You can read more on these stages in Christina Gregory’s article, The Five Stages of Grief, but below is a brief outline of the Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle.

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  1. Denial: After losing someone or something important to us, it is natural to reject the idea that it could be true. It is common to isolate to avoid having to face reality.
  2. Anger: When we can no longer deny the truth, anger starts to creep in. We may feel like something unfair has happened and wonder what we did to deserve it.
  3. Bargaining: The process of negotiating in order to get a desired outcome. It is sometimes used as a coping mechanism to help the grieving person feel in control in the face of helplessness.
  4. Depression: A heaviness and a deep sadness eventually sets in when we come to terms with the fact that there is nothing we can do to change what has happened.
  5. Acceptance: Reaching acceptance isn’t necessarily about being OK with what happened. Acceptance is more about how you acknowledge your losses, how you learn to live with them, and how you readjust your life accordingly.

Jamie cycled through 4 of the The Five Stages of Grief for the better part of 2 years. Prior to reaching the final stage of Acceptance, Jamie found herself stuck dealing with an unbearable heaviness and a deep sadness that she felt ill-equipped to manage on her own. Having had a history of depression, she knew it would be necessary to have a safe place to process her emotions, rather than the route that failed her in the past: isolation. 

Jamie sought help from a qualified grief counsellor to help her to continue living the life Wes had shown her she wanted. She felt that without Wes’ positive go-getter attitude to motivate her, she needed another external source.

Grief Counselling in Kitchener

The goal of grief counselling is not to achieve complete freedom from sadness over your loss – in fact, you might feel sadness over your loss for quite some time. On the contrary, grief counseling aims to help you come to terms with the loss, navigate your emotions, and discover your “new normal” in the wake of your loss while you continue working toward your goals and doing the things you love.

At COCA Psychotherapy we have a diverse team of Kitchener therapists who are highly skilled in a vast array of areas, including grief counselling and depression counselling in Kitchener, Waterloo. COCA provides a therapeutic space to process your feelings, thoughts and experiences in connection to your loss and other areas of your life that have been impacted by it.

The emotional symptoms tethered to the grieving process can have a significant impact on other facets of our lives. Oftentimes those dealing with loss tend to struggle with keeping up with work commitments, maintaining their physical well-being, and even maintaining healthy relationships. If you are struggling with communicating your emotions with your partner, consider reading through our previous post Seeking Relationship Counselling with us.

If you are feeling at a loss and like you are unable to cope, it may be time to ask for a little help. Feel free to contact us here to book an appointment or give us a call on 226-336-5787 for a free consultation over the phone.

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