Sara Mathews Counselling and Supervision

Bereavement and General Counselling.

Clinical Supervision

online from my durham practise

What can we say about grief?

I’ve been a specialist Bereavement Counsellor for 12 years at the time of writing. That’s 12 years of providing Bereavement Counselling to all sorts of people, old, young, ill, well, angry, confused, and desperate. You’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Of course, there are books. Lots of brilliant books and much as I find theory helpful the biggest source of learning has been the clients I’ve worked with. I owe them a debt of gratitude. Their lessons fuel my passion for this strange and important work.

I won’t be naming names because confidentiality matters. Instead, I have invented three imaginary characters who are going to help me share lessons I’ve learned…

Gertie Gets it Wrong

Gertie is grieving. It really hurts. She wakes up in the morning and half forgets what’s happened until she remembers again and the wound re-opens. She stumbles around telling people she’s “fine” and “getting there” if they ask – some don’t. Sometimes Gertie can get it together to do ordinary things, sometimes she must. But when she does, she feels bad. How can she be doing the Ordinary Thing when the thing that has no name lives inside her, hurting her and the person she loves, lives no more? Everything Gertie feels, feels wrong. It’s wrong to wallow, it’s wrong to laugh, it’s wrong to feel like she feels after this amount of time, how long is it all supposed to last anyway? No-one can tell her and there’s a part of Gertie that doesn’t want to stop feeling this pain because at least that’s a way to still feel connected.

Fahrid Needs fixing

Fahrid’s family are worried about him. It’s gone on too long. I mean of course it’s sad, but isn’t it time he started to do things to help himself?  Fahrid’s daughter worries about him all the time. Her partner is getting fed up with her constantly talking about her dad. Fahrid feels differently. He likes keeping his wife close to him, they were married for a long time after all. He has no plans to move on, he just wants to live out his life with his memories. No-one could ever replace her.  Fahrid doesn’t want to worry his family he knows they are grieving too. He doesn’t want to join groups or talk to someone or do any of the things they suggest he should be doing.   So, he lies. He puts on a brave face and his family aren’t quite sure if he is telling the truth or not. They all feel the tension and the distance between them keeps growing….

The worst death?

Death out of time is different. Maya doesn’t know how she is going to survive without her little girl. She feels guilty all the time because she is just so angry that her little one didn’t get to grow up. She looks at other kids, other parents, taking their lives for granted. She hears people moaning about the small everyday parts of life and even the big things, things that Maya used to care about, and she feels nothing but rage and pain. Her daughter is gone. Nothing else matters, nothing else will ever matter. Somehow Maya must find a way to keep living and she doesn’t know how she is going to do that.

These characters and their stories are fictitious. I made them up but the feelings and circumstances they are living through have come from things I have learned from real people’s experience. There are a whole cast of other characters in my head, different stories, different deaths, and different feelings. The thing about grief counselling is it can’t fix anything. Death is irretrievable, final, an ending of a life. But I believe it can help the living to find a way to keep living. It can offer a space where feelings that can seem literally unspeakable are voiced and heard. When the worst happens it can offer comfort and kindness when that is not something you can give to yourself….

Beyond the “stages of grief”
What can we say about grief?

©Sara Mathews

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