“Initially, I thought no one could help me as no one could change what happened, but I’ve discovered that that isn't really the point of counselling at all.” Blogger Jess reflects on how, five years after her Dad’s death, talking therapy has helped her come to terms with her loss.
After the first few months of a loss, when friends begin to visit less and life inevitably moves forward, it can be difficult to adjust to the colossal gap that your loved one has left in your life.
It can be isolating and frustrating to watch as everything continues as normal when, of course, nothing feels normal.
There isn't a ‘best before’ date for grief; it will always be with you but, with time, you will learn how to live with it and get through each day. However, if after a few months your feelings remain overwhelming, it might be worth considering finding some external support.
How counselling helped me
Initially, support wasn't something I sought or particularly wanted, as I didn't see the point of talking about my grief. I thought no one could help me as no one could change what happened, but I’ve discovered that that isn't really the point of counselling at all.
I've realised over the years that counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are helpful, as they are a way of processing everything by getting it out of my head and bouncing it off another person before – with professional help and in a way that works for you – creating a plan around how to deal with these feelings.
Sometimes people need encouragement from a loved one first before taking professional help. For instance, I never would have gone to CBT if my Mum hadn't chatted with me first and found the company and booked my first appointment.
She helped as much as she could by getting me to more help after helping me herself; she tag-teamed someone else in to continue the momentum she’d started.
The importance of the right counsellor
In addition to the CBT, I was fortunate enough to have a family counsellor, Maxine, from Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, where Dad spent his final days. Maxine had not only met my Dad in the hospice but she had also lost her father at a young age. So, whilst Maxine and I were 20 years apart in age and grief, we knew exactly how the other one felt.
It was comforting to have that connection with Maxine, and I began to feel closer to a woman double my age than to my friends at school because we had this mutual understanding.
Also, I found that telling a counsellor was so much easier than telling my friends, as I never wanted to burden them with something so heavy that I couldn't really cope with it, let alone expect them to be able to cope either.
My family and I would still talk about Dad and how we felt, but having separate counselling sessions meant we had external support too, as we were all grieving in our own ways.
“Seeking help is a sign of strength”
I still take support when and if I need it – even five years on – as a lot has happened since Dad passed away. I did my A-levels, went to university and moved away from home, and now I've graduated and I'm working two jobs while doing my Masters.
My life is completely different, and, consequently, I have different thoughts, worries and questions than I did when I was 16. I also have to adjust to these new stages of my life that my dad has never, and will never, be a part of.
If I find myself feeling down, or if I realise I'm not interested in leaving the house, or if I just feel a bit overwhelmed, then I book a CBT session. There's no shame in seeking support at difficult moments in your life; in fact, I've begun to think it's actually a rather healthy thing to do.
For reference, there is nothing wrong with me – I am as unusual and bonkers as I have always been (I blame my genes!) – I just sometimes miss my Dad, and that's never a crime. But I only know that because I've taken help, and continue to trust my gut and seek help when I sense that I need it.
Getting help is always a sign of strength; it is never a weakness. Take help if you want or need it, or maybe just to see if you do need it. Try it – you might take something from it.
Reach out if you need support
Our Online Community is an anonymous safe space to share experiences, get things off your chest, ask questions and chat to people who understand.
Jess's dad was cared for at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice in Peterborough. Since he died, she has found solace in blogging.