Thoughts From The Couch – Grief & Loss

In the space of a month, the United Kingdom has changed beyond recognition. British life has been transformed dramatically, and so fast that none of us have really had time to dwell on it and the nation are still adjusting to a systemic shock. There have been many comparisons to World War 11 where an enemy attacked, today our generation is facing its own test, fighting a very real and new disease. Time at home is better than having to fight, but in some ways the effects are similar.

With talk of 50-80% of the global population potentially contracting Covid-19, there is a loss of what Maslo considered to be one of our most basic human needs; Safety.  With personal safety, personal security, emotional security, financial security and health being about keeping us safe from harm. Paramount to these include shelter, job security, health and safe environments all of which are being threatened, for most, in one way or another. Our primitive mind knows that something bad is happening, but we can’t see it, which breaks our sense of safety and for many that core loss of is very disconcerting.

Many of my clients are thinking about the lives they have taken so for granted and are anxious as to what the future holds. For some, there is an impatience, a sort of denial of the reality of what is happening and for others a bargaining; “If I don’t go out then this will go away.” What we need to recognise is that each of us will be managing this time differently, but without a doubt every one of us will be experiencing an element of loss. With the fear of the economic toll, job losses, social isolation, loneliness, illness and the death of loved ones, there is an atmosphere of shock, fear and grief when talking to my clients. 

Who would have ever imagined that at a time where family and friends are so needed, we are being asked to remain indoors with as little physical contact to the outside world as possible. We humans aren’t meant to live in isolation; loneliness has been proven to cause serious repercussions. There is a lot of uncertainty and my sense is that, as a therapist, I offer a solid ground in an otherwise unpredictable and fearful world. A place where my clients can allow their most vulnerable and powerful selves to be seen. As William James said; “We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”

In 1969, Elizabeth Kugler-Ross described five popular stages of grief. They include; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We are grieving collectively and individually and I am finding myself supporting my clients through different stages of these, depending on what they are dealing with. It is important to point out that these stages are not linear and some people might only undergo a couple of the stages rather than all five. There is no right or wrong way to work through grief and loss and important to allow ourselves to have whatever feelings emerge knowing that grief is a temporary state.

Another loss that my clients are experiencing is our face to face meetings. It takes time for many to get used to telephone and online therapy, especially if they have been used to face to face, and yet, research on the subject finds this way to be just as effective as in-person therapy. Professor Sophie Scott states that; “Video calling has been proven to be just as good for your brain and happiness as being in the same space.”  I am offering virtual therapy sessions for all my clients acknowledging that this will become part of our routines for this indefinite and uncertain period of time. What we do know is that when the world around us feels unstable therapy can offer a supportive and reliable environment where you can express and feel all your emotions in the knowledge that your therapist can meet and metaphorically hold you, shining their light through these challenging times. 

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