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Why is Grief so hard - An extract from my piece for the Guardian in Sept 22

Words matter. Especially in grief. We need those words – those just right words – to help us find an anchor to process, to adapt, to make sense of how we carry on in a world changed so greatly. The death of loved one shatters our usual way of life and we embark on a deeply difficult and personal journey into the loneliness of grief.

The finality of death and grief are so horribly upsetting no two people cope in exactly the same way. I am very mindful that the news is saturated with pictures of the queen, of her grieving family and of the national response. For anyone in the grips of a difficult loss this can be very demanding, triggering and distressing. If you need to streamline your exposure to the news this is good self-care. And don’t compare yourself to others in your circle. Every loss is unique and personal. The priority is to look after yourself, to stand steady in whatever way you can to preserve your psychological and mental resource for your greater good.

When grief crashes into our life, our usual way of being is gone. The pillars of our psychological scaffold collapse. We find that we don’t really know how to be our usual self, we have to re-construct connections with significant others, with a revised future which looms bleak and difficult; as the backdrop of our days is the pain of the loss. The physical absence of our loved one and there is no getting over that. We have to learn to live well in a world without our loved one. And this is complex and difficult.

Grief is very present at the moment. The passing of Queen Elizabeth II has thrown the British people into a collective grief. Millions have stood in very long queues to show their love, to pay their respects. And more have stood in line to attend the ritual of her funeral, to pay tribute to her. The queen was such a matriarch. A pillar of our world, dedicated to service, to doing what’s best for the greater collective. She was the figure head in the fabric of our nation and we got used to relying on her for hope and guidance.

“Whatever it takes” they say. “However long it takes”. She gave us 70 years of remarkable duty and we will honour her life in the most human and meaningful way we can. As queen Elizabeth said “grief is the price we pay for love” and it is totally worth it.

In loss we do everything we can to find a way to bear the physical absence but to maintain an ongoing bond with the person gone. We pray. We light candles. We talk to them. We write letters. We sit vigil. We lean into the rituals of grief and we seek comfort in whatever way we can.

Knowing how to navigate the life long journey of grief is not easy. I am a practicing psychologist and I have studied grief and loss for nearly two decades now. Grief work is hard. It takes time. There is no easy way round it. The only way to heal from loss is to trust in ourselves to go through it. And it hurts. It is exhausting. And it comes calling repeatedly and often.

People have faith in the five stages of grief but these are not so fixed or reliable. Of course, denial, anger, depression, sadness, acceptance are all recognisable phases of grief but they are by no means fixed, or linear and they can happen all at once, or again and again depending on the circumstances of one’s life, stress and context of the loss.

Understanding grief and what grief can do to our mental health if it is not processed well is really important to our wellbeing. So many people I see in my practice are frightened by the intensity of their grief and surprised at its expansiveness. In cases where the grief is compartmentalised too much, or suppressed it starts to build as tension in the body and it leaks as a physical health issue or as a mental health issue such as depression. It is so important to break the taboo of loss and create communal space that holds compassion and understanding for those in the grip of grief.

The masterclass I will be running on 5th October will do just that. We will go through and help those attending not only understand their own grief but also we will hold space to share in how best to support each other. So often people suffer because those around them have attempted to fix their grief, have shut them down, have not listened. It is so important to have discourse and to listen to those with lived experience of loss and grief.

In this masterclass we will explore what loss is, how it manifests physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. We will focus on explaining how grief works and what aids healing and how to talk about it without fear and with compassion. It will be a 2hr long webinar which will be a safe space for people to share their experience of grief and we will look at signs of deteriorating mental health and how to practice good self care to move through grief.

How to cope with grief and loss, with Dr Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell

A compassionate and interactive masterclass with Dr Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell that will help you to understand the complex emotions behind the grieving process Online workshop Date: Wednesday 5 October 2022 Time: 6.30pm-8.30pm

If you would like to attend please sign up via this link

I look forward to meeting you there and hope together we can help break the stigma of grief and loss.

Dr Chloe

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