Friday, 18 December 2009
Grief is the price we pay for love.
This morning when I was reading my friends blogs I ended up writing comments that included two of my favourite phrases. And I realised that these phrases or adages are things I attempt to live by. So it felt appropriate to write about them and the others that I hold dear.
Most of these phrases started in my life as things I read and liked enough to use with clients in therapy. And because I never ask any client to do something I wouldn't do myself I found myself holding on to them as keepsafes in my own life.
It is difficult to put them in any order of priority, so as they say on all the TV shows right now,in no particular order (and a few posts)......
Grief is the price we pay for love
From my early days as a therapist I have always worked with grieving people. I think my passion, if that is the right word started when I was nursing, and I would watch the appalling way people back in the 1970s got told their relatives had died. It wasn't done with very much sensitivity, by more often or not a junior doctor who hadn't a clue how to tackle death with much compassion. I vowed that when I was able I would be the person to tell of a loved ones death.
At the same time we were in the tail end of the era of not talking openly about people's illnesses. So I witnessed far too many people die without being honest with their families about what they felt. That really horrified me, it was such a time of unspoken conspiracy with people supposedly protecting their nearest and dearest. The reality was so very different the patient generally knew they were dying, the family knew they were dying and everyone colluded not to talk about, and so miss the chance to say I love you or goodbye.
So I have almost always been on a crusade to bring death into the open. After all it is going to happen to all of us. Some of us get the opportunity to have a so called good death where we have the opportunity to say good bye and put our affairs in order.
But we live in a society that is frightened of death, as opposed to Victorian times when death was celebrated with the wearing of mourning clothes and mourning rings that contained locks of loved ones hair. The downside of this age was that sex was underground. Nowadays there is a complete reversal and we all apparently are having endless exotic sex but we cannot discuss death.
So what happens when someone we love dies is a grief reaction. But we've lost the knowledge of what is normal at this time. So people start to believe they are suffering from depression and seek medical treatment, for feelings that are to be expected.
Grief is normal, hurting is normal, being angry is normal, feeling guilty is normal.
And I tell all my bereavement clients that grief is the price we pay for love. And somehow when they acknowledge this, their ability to shift into having a normal and expected reaction as opposed to it being a psychological problem, dramatically changes in front of my eyes.
I also always suggest that they start to work on being pro-active with their grief. And I suggest something that without fail reduces my bereavement clients to tears in front of me. I will ask them to write a letter that they cannot possibly send, but that they need to write to tell the person they have lost how much they love them and miss them.
It is at this point that I metaphorically hold my clients, and hold them up as they begin to understand that because they loved someone, they are naturally going to feel grief now they are no longer there and that is okay.
Death is the one certainty of birth, and I for one don't think we should shy away from it. There is little point in fearing it, there is a point to fearing terminal illness. Why hook into the bizarre belief system that we will live for ever, we won't. Lets get death and dying back into the open, (even if that means getting sex back into the cupboard for a while.)Facing our fear stops it being a fear.