The Bradford Bulletin

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April 2015

Coping with Loss

Every so often, I will receive counselling inquiries from people who recently lost a loved one.  These individuals want help to deal with the overwhelming experience of grief and loss. Although our society understands that it is difficult to lose a loved one, people coping with loss still have to face many barriers on their path to healing.

At age 14, losing my father to cancer was devastating. I felt alone and did not know how to seek support. The only resource I knew of was a professional who worked in palliative care. Now, over twenty years later, grief support is only a click away on the internet. Numerous organizations are devoted to helping people of all ages cope during this deeply vulnerable time. However, many of us do not reach out for such help because we live under a perception that it is a sign of weakness.

Although more than twenty years have passed since my father died, I notice not much has changed in the general attitude toward death and loss. Too many people are still afraid to talk about this topic or even acknowledge that it happens. For those who are grieving, such behaviours from friends and family could result in feelings of rejection, hurt, and loneliness; grief is already a lonely experience as it is. Some places of employment have begun to recognize that the emotional effects of grief can affect work performance, and have taken proactive strategies to help their employees through employee assistance plans, peer support programs, extended health care coverage, and short term disability leaves. I hope that, one day soon, the majority of workplaces will follow suit.

Thanks to research and the courageous people who share their personal stories, we now know that pushing feelings away and ignoring distress does not help. The key to successful coping and healing is talking, listening, caring and connecting. It is about recognizing that each and every person’s experience with loss is unique. It is about respecting people’s suffering and not telling them how they should feel. It is about using patience and compassion, and not expecting people to “get over it” after a certain period of time. Grief simply does not work that way.

When the wave of grief comes, we need to ride it, no matter how painful or hard it is, because we know it will eventually calm down. And when it does calm down, we can be proud of how much courage it took for us to come face to face with it.

Some grief resources to consider: – Bereaved Families of York Region – Seasons Centre for Grieving Children Hospice Simcoe (Barrie) – Doane House Hospice (Newmarket) - Hospice Georgina (Sutton)