A learning journal I wrote for my counselling course:
In this learning journal I am going to identify and explore differences between the self and others. Recent life events, especially the loss of my mother, have given me a better understanding and knowledge of the self in terms of my beliefs, values, and responses to experiences and I am going to explore some of them hear.
I have repeatedly criticised myself for my response to the loss of my mother. I also find myself regularly questioning my response. Is this normal? Do others experience this? Why am I doing, thinking, or saying that? Bereavement is one of the biggest stressors humans’ face, with death of a spouse and death of a close family member being in the top five life stressors in Holmes and Rahe’s Stress Scale. It is probably one of the most difficult things I will ever experience and yet I continue to make the process even more difficult by fighting my natural responses to it.
I always knew that I was self-critical and somewhat self-destructive, but the extent of my self-criticism has really been emphasised by the fact that I do not even ‘let myself off’ during a process as difficult as bereavement. This has made me question what bereavement would feel like without the self-destructive negative self-talk that I am bombarding myself with.
How would someone experience bereavement in its ‘purity,’ without other external and internal pressures?
Am I slowing the whole process down by avoiding the pure feelings and replacing them with self-criticism?
These questions have motivated me to read up on grief and I have discovered a wealth of information on how different people deal with grief. It was particularly interesting to read about the variety of ways different cultures approach death. For example:
In African American communities, religion and family play an important role in the grief process, with many people within this culture believing in life after death.
For those of the Orthodox Jewish faith, it is important that minimal physical contact occurs after death between the deceased person and people who are not Jewish.
Both culture and religion play a huge role in the bereavement process. Saying that, I am aware that generalisations must not be made and not everyone from a given culture or religion will have the same beliefs and approaches to an event.
The grief of losing my mother has made me realise that I am just like everyone else who has lost a loved one, and yet I am unique in my perception of the experience and the way in which I handle it. Some of this will be due to my history, some due to my personality, and some due to external factors. There are so many variables involved in grief and this is a new level of understanding that I will definitely take into my counselling career. I feel this will help me provide a safer environment for clients to deal with grief in the way that feels right for them.