Today it’s been 11 years since we (my family and I) lost my eldest sister. Her battle with cancer was short but it was lethal. Within being diagnosed a month later she was gone.
Each year I find the anniversary of her death difficult. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one will agree that the loss, the pain and the hole within your life never goes away.
I write this article as a way to celebrate her life, acknowledge the pain and also with a hope that by writing and sharing with you my experience, you will allow yourself the ability to feel how ever you want to, without any apology.
“Bereavement is the action or condition of being bereaved. Bereaved is being deprived of a close relation or friend through their death.”
Deprived we are. I felt deprived of the ability to talk to her, feel her presence or even talk about her because I never felt I could. I felt if I talked about her I would be upsetting someone and hurting them further.
There were a lot of reasons why her death was difficult some being that we never got a chance to save her and the decision was taken out of hands. I also I felt a lot of anger towards her. I felt abandoned and betrayed by her because she had always been my protector.
“Why didn’t she take better care of herself?!” “Why didn’t she fight harder?” “Why hadn’t the doctors caught it sooner?!”. I recognise now that I was suffering from grief.
At that moment I felt I had to finally grow up. I felt insecure all of a sudden, I felt like If I fell no-one would catch me. Like she used to.
Grief does weird things to our minds. It can distort our reality in such a way that we don’t know what or why we are doing it. The pressure we put on ourselves to be okay, to get over things quickly can cause us to suffer later down the line.
I felt like I was drowning and no matter how much I tried to swim I was failing. I couldn’t be there for others who relied on me. I withdrew and tried to act like I was fine. Everyone had their own way of dealing with the loss within my family. My focus went on my parents and their wellbeing.
I only felt like talking about her to the people that knew her, straight away I was closing the door on seeking comfort from people who were close to me. I had learnt to compartmentalise a lot earlier in my life so this was easy for me to do or so I thought.
But there was an anger brewing deep inside of me that I kept squashing deeper and deeper.
Years later I realised that it wasn’t the best way to deal with her loss.
I found solace in sitting with my parents and talking about her, which was something we did often. Sometimes we would laugh, sometimes cry but we would talk. Talking about her at times is bittersweet.
Regardless of what your faith may be, death does not discriminate, it is inevitable who ever is born will experience death and whoever is left behind the loss.
But now by acknowledging such pain, loss and sadness I find that I’m being more true to myself. This has helped recently with the sudden death of my mother. Where I am allowing myself to feel the loss. I am not forcing myself to be okay.
I think of my sister and mother with love and sadness but also the knowledge that a part of them both will always be with me. The years I spent with them, the love I experienced and the memories will always be something that I carry with me.
Dealing with bereavement can be lonely. You will feel like you don’t have anyone to share your pain with. You feel like you are alone in the darkness that you feel and no-one can understand. By talking to someone, anyone who will listen and be there for you, can help.
By seeking support you are recognising what you need, you are being true to yourself. Each experience is different, just like all relationships are different. But what brings us together as humans is the ability to be resilient.
Sometimes trying to find a balance between focusing on our everyday tasks and finding time for ourselves can be difficult. In all of the chores, work commitments and other mental checklists we tend to forget to pause and we end up putting our own needs on the back burner.
This can result in us feeling overwhelmed, rushing from one task to the next, never finding a moment to relax. If we do, we feel guilty that we are not productive enough.
I myself find it difficult at times to switch off and just be present in the moment. If it’s not rushing around trying to get the odd jobs done, its more about what have I done that I can class as being productive.
The pressure we can put on ourselves can result in us feeling burnt out. It becomes a vicious cycle of irritation, moodiness and unfulfilled feeling that we should be doing better.
We all have heard of the benefits of mindfulness, even I have purchased Pause by Kim Davies which provides 50 instant exercises to promote balance and focus every day. But to actually find the willpower to sit down and start is another thing that I struggle with.
Browsing the Works store, first what attracted me to the book was the bright colours and the word PAUSE in bold. “I need to pause.” I remember thinking to myself. “I need to find some Me time.”
You would think a stay at home mum, part time volunteer and qualified counsellor attempting to start my own private practice, would in fact have plenty time to pause. But I felt like I was wasting my time. If I sat down to do nothing, if I didn’t achieve that mental check list then I was failing somehow.
I myself feel that doing daily chores such as cleaning, washing up, laundry and weekly shops are unpaid, thankless, and let’s face it things we have to do to live jobs. But what about feeding our soul? Who am I?
So, I picked up the book and paid for it, brought it home and then placed it on my desk. “I will get to it”. I kept telling myself. Then I decided to renovate my downstairs which meant that even if had wanted to, I couldn’t surely find 10 minutes to do some mindfulness exercises. The house is a mess like someone had just picked it up given it a good shake and set it down. When I wasn’t doing the redecorating, organising and cleaning I was just too exhausted.
So now all the work is done, I say all but who am I kidding. Most of it is done. I want to try to find some inner calmness.
Each day I will try to find time to do one of the instant exercises within this book. I will share the technique and how easily they can actually be integrated into every-day life. I am committed now to this, because truth is you need to practice what you preach. As a counsellor I always encourage my clients to carve out some time for themselves. Where they can be relax and reconnect with who they are.
I plan to reconnect with my surroundings, be present in the moment and try and find some inner peace which can be difficult to achieve in the busy lives lead. Will you come on this journey with me?
The journey to therapy can be a difficult one. Who do you turn to and what is available out there? It can be difficult to sift through all the different options. In this article I would like to talk to you about the beginning of the counselling journey.
Where to start? This is the question I guess we all face from time to time. You may have the feeling that something needs to change. You want to help yourself but don’t know how. That’s where a counsellor comes in.
Before counselling can begin, an assessment should take place to see if the counselling is right for you. It’s not about one size fits all. It’s more about what are you hoping to achieve, and what do you expect vs what can be offered.
Once an assessment takes place, it’s best to find out the counsellor can offer.
I offer Person – Centred therapy which is tried and tested and suites each unique individual.
What is contracting and what to expect?
So you have had your assessment or conversation with your counsellor and you are ready to start.
The first session can sometimes go by very quickly and some of the information that is provided may seem to have got lost in the minefield of words and nerves.
Normally contracting is something that the counsellor does at the beginning of the session. It’s a verbal contract with you and the counsellor, that allows the counsellor to set out boundaries and expectations from the get go. It sounds very formal and in some sense yes it is.
Below is an example of contracting I do with all my clients on the first session, which generally just takes a few minutes.
“Today’s session is 50 minutes long and before the end of the session I will let you know we are nearly coming to an end.
“Everything you do say within these sessions are confidential, the only time I would have to break confidentiality is if you mention harm to self or others, drug trafficking, money laundering or any acts of terrorism by law I would have to break confidentiality. In the event this does happen I will inform you first and will then raise this with my supervisor because I take my duty of care towards you seriously.”
” I work following the BACP Ethical Framework and Payment has to be recieved 48 hours before the session and if payment isn’t received then the sadly the session cannot take place. Any questions?”
Now majority of the time since it is your first session you may feel overwhelmed with the amount of information passed to you within a few mins. So take a moment and if something does come to you during or after the session then raise it with counsellor.
Some counsellors may send you the contract in document format so you can read it before the session and I personally like to send a contract before the session outlining these aspects as well as verbally confirming them within the session.
Within the written contract it should also include terms of agreement regarding any payment, frequency of the sessions and notice period of any cancellations.
Due to recent COV-19 restrictions and for the safety of clients until further notice all forms of counselling are to be carried out remotely.
Counselling can take place over the telephone or via video link using zoom or teams.
Phone counselling does have its advantages where clients can save time and money from commuting to appointments. There is another degree of anonymity and sessions can take outside of your working hours.
What this does mean is that the counsellor will be extra vigilant in hearing you, not just your words but the silences too. This will show the counsellors listening skills where they are not reliant on facial expressions or body language to gain an understanding.
Whatever form you prefer please let the counsellor know and they should accommodate you to help form a better working relationship.
Once restrictions are lifted and face to face counselling can take place the counsellor will inform of any changes that may impact your sessions.