Losses affect all of us; however people react to loss in many different ways depending on the circumstances of the loss, the proximity, the suddenness or unexpectedness, if there are multiple losses, preventable deaths, violent or traumatic deaths, stigmatized deaths, etc.
There are different types of losses:
• Death of a spouse, partner, parent or child
• Loss of pregnancy through miscarriage or stillbirth
• Loss of pregnancy through planned abortion
• Loss of parenthood through infertility
• Loss or death of a pet
• Job loss
• End of a relationship
• Loss of friends and familiar environment through a house move
• Loss of motherhood or femininity after a hysterectomy or mastectomy
• Loss of youth
• Loss of position in family when a sibling is born
Have anybody said to you ‘you should be over it by now’? This kind of statements, despite its good intentions, can only make things worse. For most people, the intensity of grief subsides with time but for 10-12% the grief persists and it can be 20% or more with traumatic deaths.
Prolonged grief disorder happens when the grief reaction lasts for more than 6 months and it’s characterized by an intense yearning and longing for the loved one or the lost situation. The person feels empty with little hope for the future; they have intrusive and distressing thoughts regarding the loved one’s absence or loss which makes it more difficult to move beyond that state.
If there is trauma, it will interfere with the grief /mourning process and vice versa, the grief interferes with the trauma. Trauma happens when memories get ‘stuck’ in the brain, which is unable to process them in a healthy way.
Memory networks are associated with attachment and psychological connections to the person, relationship or situation that has been lost and can make the grief /mourning process more complicated. Healthy adaptation to the new situation requires acknowledgement to the fact that they are not coming back and it can be too much for some people to accept.
People usually go through 6 stages in the process of mourning:
1. Avoidance phase: deny, repress or avoid aspects of the loss, its pain and the full realization of its implication; they try to hold onto the lost person / relationship / situation.
2. Recognise the loss
3. Confrontation: reaction to the separation /loss, experience the pain, identify secondary losses
4. Remember the person / relationship / situation realistically and the feelings about them both positive and negative.
5. Relinquish the old attachments
6. Accommodation phase: readjusting to the new world without forgetting the old, adapting new ways of being or forming new identity.
We don’t lose the memories, the attachments, the connections but they get transformed. Hypnotherapy can help dealing with that loss and also with daily life, oscillating within normal bounds between the two and gradually integrating the loss. Sometimes this process can be complicated when there are feelings of anger, guilt, shame, dependency, abuse, etc in relationships. These inner thoughts evoke distress, past traumas, conflicts and in general negative memories that need to be processed to bring about an adaptive resolution.
EMDR and EMIT therapy can help to facilitate a ‘natural way’ of moving through the process of mourning; acute grief is a form of post-traumatic stress and this process is able to go through the painful moments that are ‘stuck’ in the brain, connecting past memories in a healthy way. EMDR targets the loss related moments, moments of shock, moments of realization, past unresolved losses or traumas, ‘stuck’ distress point, blocks, complications and other significant and ‘seemingly small’ moments that contribute to the dysfunction. It also helps to create a future template for present triggers.
It enables us to carry into the future the basic security of having loved and having been loved, so we can move forward in the world without that person, relationship or situation because we have an adaptive inner representation to take with us.