• The grieving process can change your life forever

  • Counsellor Clare-Marie Keel explores the magnitude of grief and offers hope that things eventually get easier

  • If you have lost a loved one, our bereavement counsellors are available to support you here

What does the word loss mean to you? It is in fact one of the toughest journeys that we will ever have to experience, as nothing can prepare us for the heartache of grief. To lose a loved one exposes our vulnerable side like an open wound. It leaves us in a world where we no longer feel safe and secure but one that is filled with feelings of loneliness, dread and an overwhelming melancholy. 

We look at others carrying on with their everyday living while we just want to fall in a crumpled heap on the ground and weep at the unfairness of life and our loss. Why has our world stopped while everything else seems to be carrying on? The noise of laughter, idle chat, traffic; it all feels so deafening. It is as if we are watching a film set and we are just one small spectator that wants to become the producer and shout "cut!" to silence the thunderous sounds and command stillness.

We may on occasions have the experience of seeming we are on a carousel that is speeding round and round, faster and faster. We just want it to stop so we can jump off and get back in to the world of normality. It feels so very hurried and loud, we want to scream out for the calm of quiet and solitude.

Some losses are sudden others happen slowly over time as we may have watched our nearest and dearest gradually fade in front of our very eyes. Neither of these are easier to deal with as it still leaves us feeling devastated and questioning how we will be able to cope and move on. 

The questions ruminate round and round in our head – why, how, this cannot be happening. We desperately want to seek answers yet no one has those answers and those answers won’t bring that person back. 

The array of emotions flutters continually around us from anger, guilt, fear and denial to an overwhelming sense of tender sadness. We ask could we have done more for our loved ones and the guilt gets heavier and heavier and so much harder to carry. We may feel raging anger for that person leaving us alone in the world yet we don’t know how to vent this anger to someone who is no longer here.

The exhaustion of grief envelopes us into the need to sleep, yet when night time comes we may lay awake hour after hour and relive the memories of our last time together. 

Every little job takes longer to do as we lack the motivation to carry out everyday tasks that previously took no effort. The stairs resemble a mountain to climb, the shower no longer feels like water but acid inflicting pain on our body.

The confusion grief stirs is frightening, we struggle to focus as our minds feel like a blur of confusion. We fear making even the smallest decisions as anxiety overwhelms us so we lose our confidence in who we are.

Conversations seem such an effort, others ask how we are, we just say "yes fine, getting there" but really, we just want to be hugged or a hand held. No words need to be said to feel that comfort of another close by.

We imagine the impossible of having one more conversation – "Just five more minutes please, please I beg as there is so much, I need to tell you". We replay the script of what we would say and question why we never said the words that were so precious when we had the chance.

Birthdays, Christmas, and all those family get togethers there is a gaping hole, one empty seat, one glass not filled, one less place mat. Having a lump, the size of a golf ball in the back of your throat spending the whole day swallowing hard and blinking back tears. In reality you just want to curl up in a blanket and shut the world out. 

If feels like the pain will never go and we can’t imagine life ever going back to how it was. In fact, it will not, as losing someone you love will change you and your life for ever.

But one day something happens that is difficult to put in to words. You wake up without that overwhelming sense of sorrow on a daily basis. You catch yourself noticing that first flower of spring, the rainbow, birds singing, hope starts to come back in to your life. The song that made you weep is one you start to hum along to. You raise a toast to that special someone who is missing at the table. You start to think of them as real and no longer put them on a pedestal, instead you laugh about little habits that drove you mad.

You then realise that they live on in your head and your heart and if the cost of losing that person meant having them in your life it was so damn worth it.

Clare-Marie Keel is a verified Welldoing counsellor in Farnborough and online

Further reading

4 ways to support someone who is grieving

How EMDR can help in cases of complex grief

5 things I've learned about mortality