The only person who can really know that what you’re doing isn’t working is you. You’re the one who has to try and get yourself to sleep at night. No one else can do that for you. All those things that keep churning over in your mind may be hard to silence. The missed opportunities, the regrets, the sadnesses, the grief, the what ifs. In times of loss the noise we create inside our heads can become very loud. At some point it might become unbearable and you might need some help because what you are doing isn’t working. Or maybe it’s what you’re not doing that is not helping.
Loss and Bereavement
Not sleeping well is a bad place to be. It seems so much harder to cope with day to day life when you are tired. It becomes so easy to snap at other people. You can end up worrying about not sleeping and this can create a vicious circle. Lots of clients come to counselling and mention that they are having trouble sleeping. It’s very common, especially if you are experiencing some kind of psychological distress. So what can you do? There is a lot of helpful information available on the internet. Try searching under ‘sleep hygiene’ and you will find lots of common sense articles about how to get a good night’s sleep. Try some of the things suggested in these articles for about 2 weeks and see if things improve. It is amazing how many clients come to counselling and say that if they wake up in the middle of the night they go downstairs and make a cup of coffee. Caffeine is not known for its sleep inducing properties.
So what happens if you are still not sleeping well? It’s really important to try and figure out whether this is a normal response to an abnormal situation. If you are recently bereaved then it is possible that this will interfere with your sleep. If you have recently experienced some kind of loss, for example redundancy, again it is likely to impact on your sleep. Or it may be that you have some regrets about things that have happened in the past. And these keep ticking over in your mind at night. Maybe you feel guilty about something you have done. Or haven’t done. If you are having difficulties sleeping you could go to your GP and ask about medication. Or you could try some counselling and try to process those losses or regrets or feelings of guilt. Sleep well.
by Counsellor, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire
How do you feel if you see someone crying? Does it touch you in some deep place? Do you wish that you could comfort the person and ‘make it all better’? Or does it make you feel uncomfortable? Do you find yourself wishing the other person would ‘pull themselves together’? And does it matter where it happens? For example is crying at work completely unacceptable? What about at weddings and funerals – can you get away with a few tears there? Besides what is the crying about anyway? Are you crying for the other person….or are you crying for yourself? Do the tears of another remind you of your own sadness?
Some clients who come to counselling say that they feel that crying is a sign of weakness. A sign of not coping. They might tell me about something very sad or traumatic that has happened to them and apologise for feeling tearful. Some clients say that they can’t stop crying and are finding this really inconvenient. It is embarrassing and getting in the way of their functioning. How sad. I wonder who told them that crying was unacceptable. Our tears are an expression of our emotions and can be happy, angry or sad. An indication that we may be suffering. At times like this it can help to talk to someone and find a way to express our feelings. And to accept how things are for us right now.
It can be such a lonely experience to feel sad. And so unhelpful when others say ‘come on, cheer up’ or ‘pull yourself together.’ Of course the people who love and care about us find it hard to deal with if we’re struggling. However, telling someone to ‘pull yourself together’ is not really understanding how the other person is feeling. Not only that, it assumes that they can pull themselves together.
In my experience the most helpful way to help someone who is feeling sad is to try and understand what it must feel like for them. We all have sad experiences that we can draw on because our lives are characterised by loss. Throughout our lives we are continually saying goodbye to people we love or care about. Every new chapter in our lives creates an ending. Goodbye to the old. It is normal to feel sad if we are grieving. To be accepted can be healing in itself. To be allowed to be who we are and to be allowed to do what we need to do.
Sometimes though it can be hard to move on from feeling sad and the feelings may persist. If this is the case we may withdraw, not wanting to burden our families and friends. If this happens maybe counselling can help you to find a way forward. To process your feelings and to come to a place of acceptance.
Endings and Loss
There’s an advertisement on TV (not sure for what!) and the scene is in an airport arrivals hall. It’s about people reconnecting (might be for a mobile phone company) and people embracing. It’s about love and starting again. Saying hello. There is something about that scene which never fails to touch me on some deep level inside. Maybe it’s because I recognise the feelings portrayed by these actors. I know how it feels to say hello and to acknowledge how much I have missed someone I care about.
On the other hand, maybe it’s because I also know about how it feels to say goodbye to someone too. I’m going to miss you. We’re not going to see each other again. Maybe I am reminded of all the times I have been at the airport departure hall waving someone off. Goodbye. Have a lovely time. Maybe I’m not going to see you again. Sadness. Loss. Yearning.
How do you feel about endings in general? An ending marks the beginning of a new stage in our lives but can often bring up feelings of loss. Have you ever noticed that you can experience a loss and your feelings seem completely out of proportion? Sometimes clients say that they have been to the funeral of a colleague, someone they hardly knew, and they felt really distressed. They might say something like ‘I can’t understand why I felt so sad. It was worse than when my parents died’. Why is this? Well often a current loss brings up past losses and all the losses we haven’t fully grieved for.
What does this have to do with counselling? Quite a lot really. It is often the poor endings we experience in life that bring us to counselling in the first place. It might be the feelings we have because a partner walks out or the shock at losing a job unexpectedly. No proper ending. Counselling can be a life changing experience. It can help you to come to terms with what has happened in your life and to make some changes. Your therapeutic relationship is important and it can be hard to say goodbye to your Counsellor. Some clients avoid this entirely and don’t turn up for the final session or cancel the appointment. Why not ask yourself what you could learn from the experience of having a proper ending, acknowledging the work you’ve done, saying goodbye and moving on to new beginnings. It just might be the most therapeutic part of the work.
Do I always get it right? No I’m human too. But I know one thing. It’s those bad endings that I think about…..way out of proportion to the good endings.
by Counsellor, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire
‘Everywhere I look I am reminded of what I have lost. I see children looking at their parents with expectant faces, waiting for approval. I see lovers in passionate embrace. I see athletes, powerful and strong. I see friends laughing together, comforting each other, sharing. I see the disappointment, hurt and disbelief in the faces of those who have been betrayed. I see sadness and I feel it too. I see my reflection. Full of regrets. I wonder what happened. I didn’t notice. My life has passed me by.’ [Read more…] about Loss and Bereavement – Could Counselling Help?