Grief Is Horrible – But It’s Supposed to Be. We Have to Feel a Loss Before We Can Grow Through It

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From The Guardian: “It’s almost a year since my dad died. Even though he lived into his late 80s, and even though his health problems began when I was a child, his death was nevertheless a terrible shock. It still is. It was the most predictable thing in the world, but I still can’t believe it. The wave of grief surges up whenever I think of a joke he would have liked, or whenever I hear his advice in my head, and whenever I catch sight of his ashes, stored in a Hellmann’s mayonnaise jar on my bookshelf until a more suitable container can be found. (He liked Hellmann’s, but not that much.) Each time I’m left gasping for air from the pain and, strange as it sounds, I’m grateful for it. Because I know this grieving life is far better than the alternative.

Years ago I volunteered as a bereavement counsellor, and I remember vividly the moment in training where it finally clicked: my job was not to take away people’s grief, but to help them feel it. You see, you may not need counselling or therapy if you are truly grieving; but you may well need it if you aren’t. Grief is a horror, and it’s supposed to be. Where grief has got stuck, or when it has still not even begun – that is when you might need a protected space, and time, and a good, receptive listener with whom you can find it in yourself to truly suffer the pain of your loss.

As a psychodynamic psychotherapist, I have learned that the capacity to feel loss and grief constitutes nothing less than the foundation of all mental health, from infancy through to old age. Whatever life stage we are in, the inability to experience loss and to mourn it means we remain fixed where we are, unable to develop, desperately trying to hold on to whoever or whatever it is that is gone. It might be a person, a relationship or a dream that has died, but if we scroll or drug or literally run away from our feelings, the result is the same: we’re trapped. Without loss, without grief, there can be no growth.”

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14 COMMENTS

  1. As ‘just an American girl,’ who has done her homework, and has common sense, “I have learned that the capacity to feel loss and grief constitutes nothing less than the foundation of all mental health, from infancy through to old age. Whatever life stage we are in, the inability to experience loss and to mourn it means we remain fixed where we are, unable to develop, desperately trying to hold on to whoever or whatever it is that is gone.”

    As one who was attacked by psychology and psychiatry, way back in late 2001. Because on the morning of 9/11/2001, my innocent child was denied a baptism three times, by what turned out to be, a systemic child abusing and rape covering up ELCA Russian pastor. Which, at the time, I must confess, I did not know.

    “It might be a person, a relationship or a dream that has died, but if we scroll or drug or literally run away from our feelings, the result is the same: we’re trapped. Without loss, without grief, there can be no growth.”

    Yet denial of the abuse of one’s child does seem to be a systemic, child abuse covering up aspect, of all of the scientific fraud based DSM “bible” billers, who can not actually even honestly bill to help child abuse survivors, nor their legitimately concerned mothers.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-child-does-not-have-bipolar-disorder/201402/dsm-5-and-child-neglect-and-abuse-1
    https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2019/01/23/18820633.php
    https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/04/heal-for-life/

    I agree, once the medical evidence of the abuse of my innocent child was handed over, sadly, it was almost a relief. “The truth will set you free.” At least then I understood why my former pastor wanted to have his psychology “partner” murder me, via the medically known, anticholinergic toxidrome poisonings … that psychiatry systemically utilizes against way too many of their innocent “patients.”

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  2. But what to do with the grief of losing 35 years to the lies of the mental health system? Winding up disabled in the prime of life from ECT and polypharmacy, and realizing that one will never have a career, a partner, a home, a place in the world? This grief goes unacknowledged. It’s not okay to talk about it in “polite company” (whatever that term actually means). We are alone with our grief. There are no support groups for this. There’s no place for this grief. I am isolated and afraid and don’t see a way out.

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      • Me neither, Birdsong. At the end of my long “career” as a mental patient, I repeatedly sought out trauma therapy and was repeatedly denied it (not that it would have made much difference).
        One thing I learned during that time is that mental health professionals tend to be quite incapable of acknowledging that a patient’s principle/most debilitating trauma is how they were treated by mental health professionals. They must know how common it is for patients to have treatment-induced trauma, but they seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge it, let alone treat it.

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        • Unfortunately, most mental health professionals are trained directly and indirectly to think of clients as unreliable narrators, which imo makes therapy a waste of time. That so many of them can’t accept that one of their own is capable of mistreating someone is a huge flaw. They have more allegiance to their guild than to their fellow human beings.

          I understand how alone you feel, Kate. Support and caring from other people can be incredibly helpful, and you definitely deserve it after all you’ve been through and are still going through.

          When I finally realized that there’s no point in looking for water from poisoned wells, I slowly (and painfully) started to regain my self-confidence, which is, or should be, I think the point of therapy.

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          • Your most welcome, Kate.

            I don’t think it’s just the occasional therapist or psychiatrist that can be a problem; the entire field is wrongheaded.

            There’s nothing quite as freeing as letting go of the belief that ‘mental health professionals’ are needed to navigate life.

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        • Kate, working in the mental health system makes most of them unable to see things objectively.

          Too many of them identify too much with their job which deprives them not only of a healthy perspective on what they do, but of themselves as well, the result often being they take criticism of the mental health system and others who work in it too personally which causes them to unwittingly put themselves ahead of what’s best for the person they’re ‘caring’ for.

          It’s helpful to remember they belong to a tribe.

          And the way I see it, care isn’t care if you have to pay for it.

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  3. Blame the psychiatrist for encouraging us all to believe that grief is pathological, when it’s the only process that allows us to recover from a loss, and to prevent its flowering is to prevent our healing. Same too with a psychosis I would contend, because it has a beginning, middle and an end if you understand it, as many now are, as evidenced, for example, by the world beating results of the Finland approach to psychosis which has an 80% perminant remission rate for first episode psychotics, compared to the average 70% permanent DISABILITY in the US and UK. What do they do differently? They support the person to go through it rather then suppressing it chronically with drugs. Perhaps we should start to recognize that actually, all mental health is like this. What any sufferer really needs to heal is support, a feeling of security, affection, and the capacity to feel able to be who they are. But in this society we’ve lost the art of supporting one another, we’ve lost the art of social affection, and we do not have a society that accepts us as we are, particularly if we are not working or have a mental health diagnosis. So all in all, society makes it almost impossible to heal.

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