Loss and Grief: Beyond 'Letting Go', Embracing a New Relationship with Your Loved One
Updated: Sep 4
Loss and grief are universal experiences that everyone goes through at some point in their lives. Losing a loved one can be one of the most challenging experiences one can face, and it can have a significant impact on an individual's emotional, mental and physical well-being . In this blog, we will introduce a contemporary approach to grief and focus on how to best manage grief, particularly by developing a new relationship with the deceased.
One old concept that many people are familiar with is "letting go." This concept suggests that people should move on from their grief and try to forget about their loved ones. However, this approach can be harmful and counterproductive. Instead of letting go, it is essential to acknowledge and validate one's feelings of grief and loss. The first step in resolving grief is to recognise that it is a natural process that takes time, patience and self-care.
Grief is a natural emotional response to a loss. When it is not resolved effectively, it can have various negative effects on an individual's mental and physical health. According to , grief can lead to exhaustion, weaken the immune system, and make people prone to colds and other illnesses. It can also affect an individual's appetite, and sleep patterns, and cause headaches, stomach aches, and body aches.
If left unresolved, grief can result in prolonged or complicated grief, which can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and even suicidal thoughts. In addition, when the loss is not acknowledged or validated by others, an individual's grief can be felt more intensely, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness . It is important to seek support and professional help to effectively manage and resolve grief.
'Grief is the price we pay for love.'
Complicated Grief: Navigating a New Relationship with the Deceased
Grief is a complex emotion, an intricate tapestry of emotions that weaves its way into our lives after the loss of a loved one. While grief is never easy, sometimes it can become complicated by other factors.
Complicated grief manifests in various forms, each unique to the individual and their circumstances. For instance, when a loved one dies suddenly and unexpectedly, survivors may grapple with feelings of disbelief and confusion, making it challenging to accept the reality of the loss. In cases of unresolved conflict, where there may be lingering guilt or anger, the grieving process becomes more tangled. Additionally, when a caregiver experiences the death of a chronically ill loved one, like in the case of cancer or mesothelioma, a particularly complex form of complicated grief can emerge.
Chronic Illness and Complicated Grief
Caring for a loved one with a chronic illness can become all-consuming, transforming the caregiver's life and identity. When that loved one eventually passes away, the grief experienced can be especially complicated. Caregivers may find themselves struggling to redefine their sense of purpose and self, as their role as a caregiver had become an integral part of their identity. Balancing their grief for the loss of the person they cared for and the loss of their caregiver role can be incredibly challenging.
Complicated grief in the context of chronic illness caregiving can also be influenced by feelings of relief mixed with sorrow. Witnessing a loved one's prolonged suffering may evoke complex emotions, leading to a tumultuous grieving process. It's crucial for caregivers to acknowledge and seek support for these complicated emotions, as they navigate the delicate path of forming a new relationship with the deceased, one that acknowledges the complexity of their caregiving journey. In doing so, caregivers can begin to heal and find a way to integrate their grief into their ongoing lives, embracing the memories and love that endure beyond death.
Forming a New Relationship with the Deceased
One contemporary approach to grief is to develop a new relationship with the deceased. This approach recognises that the love and connection between the individual and their loved one are not lost, but instead transformed.
Developing a new relationship with the deceased refers to the process of finding new ways to maintain a connection with a loved one who has passed away. It involves acknowledging the loss and accepting the reality that the person is no longer physically present while finding ways to keep their memory alive. Find new ways to connect with them, such as through meditation, journaling, or engaging in activities that the individual and their loved one enjoyed together. This can include engaging in activities that remind you of the person, creating memorials or keepsakes, talking to the person in your mind or out loud, writing letters, or finding ways to honour the person's legacy. It is a way to continue to feel connected with the person and find comfort in their memory, while also allowing yourself to move forward with your life.
Other Tips for Managing Grief
Taking care of oneself is crucial in resolving grief. This includes getting enough rest, eating well, engaging in regular physical activity, and seeking support from friends and family.
Writing is a helpful tool for resolving grief. Writing about one's emotions and experiences can boost mood and well-being and improve immune function . This can be done through journaling or writing letters to the deceased.
Seek Professional Help
Another strategy for resolving grief is seeking professional help. A psychologist can provide support and guidance through the grieving process. Therapy can help individuals develop coping skills, navigate difficult emotions, and find new meaning in their lives.
In conclusion, grief is a natural and necessary process that takes time and patience to resolve. Instead of letting go, developing a new relationship with the deceased can be a helpful approach. Writing, seeking professional help, and taking care of oneself are also useful strategies for resolving grief. If you are struggling with grief and loss, know that you are not alone and that there is help available to support you through this challenging time.
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(c) 2023 Dean Harrison