BOW VALLEY— Grief is a process that we all face at one point or another. It is a universal experience, and it can be extremely difficult to navigate.
When most people think of grief, they think of the death of a loved one, but grief is brought on by a sense of loss, and loss comes in a variety of different forms.
Loss can be brought on by something as simple as a friend moving away, or something deeper like the loss of a loved one.
It can also be brought on by the loss of identity and purpose when leaving a job, the loss of a dream or hope at the end of a relationship, the loss of self-esteem brought on by depression or the loss of trust in yourself, in others or that life will become better.
Margaret Claveau, certified grief counsellor, at You Are Not Alone Bow Valley, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the list of losses people experience.
“There are several different types of losses, and we’re kind of witnessing it right now in the pandemic, where right now we have a loss of liberty. We can’t go about our lives like we used to. We have a loss of things that we enjoyed— Going to concerts, going to plays, gatherings, we can’t celebrate the way we did,” Claveau said.
It is important to work through the grieving process because the effects of grief can compound if they are not sorted out.
“When you experience a loss today, it can reactivate the grief that you felt at previous losses, and people can sometimes feel very overwhelmed not knowing what’s going on. This is quite evident now with the pandemic,” Claveau said. “Anybody who had a pre-existing condition of mental health issues, or, as I’ve mentioned, other losses are finding it quite different to navigate this.”
But, the grieving process is very much the same for all of these types of losses, she said.
“Grief is grief,” she said. “One of the ways of journeying through grief is to allow yourself to feel it. If you want to cry all day, cry all day. If you want to stay in bed all day, stay in bed all day.”
Giving yourself permission to feel the emotions brought on by grief is important, she said. People who are not able to grieve at the time of the loss are usually affected by it at some point, sometimes as long as 20 or 25 years later.
“You can’t numb your feelings,” Claveau said.
She added if those feelings persist for long periods, more than a couple of months, or if the grieving individual is becoming withdrawn, reclusive or non-functional, it becomes a cause for concern.
“Sometimes in the initial stages of grief, people will consult because they don’t want to burden their family, or because they become so overcome by their grief,” Claveau said.
Family and friends, she said, are the most important factor when working through grief.
“In the initial phases of grief, you need someone to hold you,” she said. “You need people who are around that will call you and see how you are. It’s very hard for a grieving person to reach out. You don’t want to be a nuisance, or sometimes you don’t even have the energy.”
It can be hard to ask for help sometimes, but asking for help does not mean that there is anything wrong with you, Claveau said. Sometimes people can become overcome by grief, or sometimes a loss has a special circumstance that makes it particularly difficult to navigate. In those situations, it is especially important to reach out to a professional for help.
“Make that first appointment,” Claveau said. “At that initial session, when they talk about what they’re going through the counsellor can help them, and assess their situation. They will ask what has happened previously, as we were mentioning, the type of loss, whether it’s complicated grief, compound grief and they will let the client know whether they need to pursue, or whether time will heal.”
Claveau’s practice is located in Canmore, but services the entire Bow Valley region and more information on her services can be found at youarenotalonebowvalley.ca/.