Written by Basia Spalek
Our society places great focus upon gains – gaining an education, gaining employment, getting a husband or a wife or a partner, having children, securing financial stability. What is often unspoken about is loss.
Inherent to any gains we make, there is loss; the loss of a loved one, the loss of a career, the loss of a home or an animal companion, the loss of a role that we previously cherished. When experiencing loss we can often feel completely alone because loss is not something that many people like to talk about or to share, perhaps because of the emotional and psychological pain this invokes.
Loss can have significant impacts on us. Sally Brampton, a former magazine editor who ended her life last week, wrote about her experience of clinical depression. In her account Sally wrote that depression can be about loss, and how her depression was linked to the loss of a job, a home and a partner.
Loss can be traumatic for us in that we find it hard to comprehend how something or somebody that was a fundamental aspect of our lives is not there anymore.
Loss can make us feel powerless, for we can experience that we could not have acted to prevent this loss.
Loss can overwhelm us, so that our lives no longer seem to have any direction, perspective or purpose, we ourselves are lost, struggling to find some meaning and structure to what is going on around us.
Acceptance of loss can be healing. Accepting that everyone’s life is touched, and indeed transformed, by loss can help a great deal. Relieving the stress, the emotional pain of loss can also be hugely cathartic. Thus, we can rage, cry, sometimes simply remain in silence as a way of acknowledging and processing the pain we are in.
It can also be very helpful to remain connected to the loved one that we have lost. For example, we might walk through the same places that they used to walk through, we might like to use their life as continuing inspiration for our own life, we might find times when we feel that the person that we have lost is close to us.
Counselling can be beneficial in helping us to process loss, to accept this when and if this is possible, and to explore how we might live with and beyond loss. Counselling provides the space for our grief, and enables us to explore some of our emotions and thinking. A good counsellor will provide a safe space where we can be ourselves and where we can feel that we are accepted in our loss, without judgement and without any conditions.
It is important within a society where loss is often hidden or denied for there to be support available for us all. Counselling can be one important type of support.
Notes about the author:
Basia Spalek is a BACP registered psychotherapist who has her own private practice: connect-and-reflect.org.uk
Basia is also a Professor in Conflict Transformation within the Department of Therapeutic Practice at the University of Derby.