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Accepting a loss is first part of grieving process says GP Dr Sam Whiteside

By Chris Saunderson

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Grief is what we experience when a person or pet dies isn’t it?


Quite possibly, but grief and loss have a wider context. We can feel grief when we lose anyone or

anything we have been attached to.

Throughout life we experience various losses, some more obvious than others. How would you feel if you lost your job? Your home? A long term relationship? These losses can evoke similar emotions to those experienced when a person or pet has died.

Accepting a loss, and the new reality it brings, is generally the first part of transition.

Various factors can make it harder to accept a loss; if it is sudden or unexpected, if

we have unresolved issues with a person we have lost, if we relied heavily on a

person or situation that has now gone.

There can be indications that someone is struggling to accept a loss and it can be important to recognise these. Denial is the most obvious and can be manifested by extreme distress or alternatively lack of emotion.

Helping a person through loss with practical support coupled with a listening ear are

very nurturing. Although it is tempting to say ‘I know how you feel…’, ‘It will be

okay…. ‘, ‘I know I’ve been through this too’ etc it is important to realise that you do

not know how they feel. Telling someone how you think they feel invalidates their


To really help someone, ask them how they feel, and listen to their answer.

Loss involves psychological re-adjustment and there is no right way to do this, each

person’s way is unique. The physical and emotional processes will vary depending

on the type of loss whether it be death, divorce, redundancy, or during this time of

the COVID-19 pandemic some loss of routine, freedom and social activities.

Some people may vent anger towards someone or something. Others channel their energy

in a more positive way, for example by raising money for a charity close to their

heart. Unfortunately in some cases attempts at distraction or temporary mental

removal from the situation such as through drug misuse, alcohol or even food excess

can be harmful. These attempts can worsen a persons’ emotional wellbeing and

reduce a coping strategy, making the loss even harder to deal with in the long-term.

As hard as it can be to realise or admit it, wherever there is loss there is gain.

Looking for the gain can be painful. However, if we take time to look for positivity during adversity it can cause beneficial personal growth.

Working through your own loss or supporting someone through a loss involves acceptance of a unique journey and a new reality, no matter what the loss has been.

If you, or someone you know is struggling with a loss then counselling can help.

CRUSE bereavement care are well known for grief counselling after the death of a

person and in some areas can also counsel children suffering grief. Grampian Child Bereavement Network are a registered charity providing support specifically to children and young people. Most person-centred counsellors, however, will have experience of helping people work through loss so help is there if you need it.

  • Dr Sam Whiteside is a Forres GP and person-centred counsellor. Find out more at whitesidewellbeing.com or on Facebook

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