12 July 2017
Grief and Loss – By Interchange Australia Consultant, Wendy Hughes
When a person dies, we mourn our loss and take comfort in both the person’s and our own rituals that mark the passing. We turn to others for support, comfort and sharing and there are often tangible acknowledgements such as a note in a local paper, flowers and cards. All these assist us to travel the journey of grief and loss, and we all react differently. Usually, immediately after a death, we feel shocked and numb. If the passing was sudden and unexpected, we often experience denial. Counsellors, following the Kübler-Ross model, site the five stages of grief to be: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance…they come and go in no particular order and may not happen to the grieving person at all. Most people feel an intense sadness that may lessen with time, but seems to always be present.
What happens to the person who is grieving someone who is still alive? Someone who is lost to us, such as a parent whose child is missing, the family of someone with severe dementia, the mother whose son is unable to communicate or express any emotions, the response of a person on discovering they have a life threatening illness. How do these people deal with this kind of unrecognised loss and grief? It is no less a loss than those experiencing the death of a loved one, however, it is an ambiguous loss and not as easily slotted into the accepted five stages of grief. The uncertainty surrounding this kind of loss tends to fluctuate between hopelessness and hope, often making it difficult for those experiencing this kind of grief, to regain their lives.
As a service provider for both over and under 65s, Interchange Australia has a varied group of clients, carers and their families. Communication and empathy are key elements of the Interchange Australia service delivery method and our staff are committed to providing the highest quality of care for all of our clients at all times, including times when a client is experiencing grief and loss. The occasional bad mood is a feeling we all experience, however, ongoing feelings of detachment, isolation from friends and/or family, anxiety, abnormal behaviour, continued fatigue, sudden weight loss or high levels of stress may all be symptoms of unrecognised grief and loss. We know, in most instances, if a client has suffered the death of a loved one to expect the grief and it’s related emotions. However, the more ambiguous grief previously mentioned, is less easily recognised but still needs to be acknowledged and accepted as the deep mental anguish it is and treated with care, patience and understanding.