25th August 2022
When someone dies, or you lose something extremely important, we can’t control the way we react. Everyone experiences loss in their own unique way, and there’s no predicting how we’ll think, feel, and behave after the event – nor should we think there’s any right way to do it. During my time as a bereavement counsellor in Harrogate and online, I have seen how people often worry about the way they react to grief, or how others may view the way they’ve reacted to the death of a loved one.
How we behave after a death or another loss of some kind can be a subject of great anxiety and scrutiny, which is not helpful, because what happens following a bereavement is complicated, and generally misunderstood. Most people don’t realise that there is a considerable difference between how one reacts to their grief, and how someone responds to the death of a loved one.
In this blog post, then, we will further explore this important distinction between grief reactions and grief responses.
When something monumental happens to us, like someone dying, reactions are what happen as a result of that particular event. These reactions are instantaneous and instinctive; they are essentially uncontrollable, coming out as different kinds of thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that are often extremely painful. These reactions are totally normal; we quite literally can’t control them. People are often overwhelmed, or unable to properly express themselves. Some might close themselves off from everyone, demonstrate high levels of anger, or blame themselves relentlessly, ruminating on what’s happened over and over again.
Once we have reacted to the death of a loved one in our own way, we ultimately embark on a more conscious, deliberate process that can be called a response. That knee-jerk reaction needs to happen, and serves as an important aspect of the grieving process, but the real healing comes with how we choose to respond to the bereavement that has recently happened.
Usually, we have to experience some pain before getting to this stage. A response should come from a place of compassion and curiosity after observing our reactions and seeing the impact they have on our lives. For instance, if you initially closed yourself off as a reaction to someone dying, a healthy response would be to gradually leave your comfort zone and reach out to people who you may not have spoken to for a little while. These responses aren’t always easy, but we do them for the benefit of our mental health.
If you are struggling with a recent bereavement and need help to process your reaction, or feel like you’d like benefit from some help understanding your response to the death of a loved one, I am here to deliver personalised, totally confidential bereavement counselling in Harrogate and online. Feel free to get in touch and ask any questions you might have.