A course, entitled ‘Responding to change after loss and distress in our lives’ is currently being held by the psychology department of the Gozo General Hospital at Barts Gozo Medical School (Queen Mary University, Malta Campus). The first of a series of talks was delivered by psychologist Liza Azzopardi, who focused on ‘Bereavement and grief; mourning the loss of a loved one’.

Azzopardi said the journey through loss was very personal and can be marked by a variety of emotional and physical reactions. Emotional symptoms included numbness, extreme anger, shock, guilt, regret, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, intrusive images, feeling overwhelmed and yearning for the deceased, she said.

Additionally, people can experience physical symptoms including fatigue, headache, nausea, tightness in throat or chest, reduced or increased appetite and trouble sleeping/sleeping too much. Azzopardi emphasised that while grief and bereavement were universal experiences, there was no one normal reaction and each individual’s experience was unique.

Pscyhologist Liza AzzopardiPscyhologist Liza Azzopardi

Azzopardi also explored the impact of both unexpected and anticipatory grief. She said these were two different experiences, each with their own set of challenges. In the case of anticipatory grief, family members may experience a range of emotions as they wait for the loss of their loved one. They may also have to navigate logistical considerations related to end-of-life care. On the other hand, sudden grief left little room for emotional preparation and may intensify the grieving process, as the individuals contend with the shock, disbelief and a profound sense of injustice, she said.

Azzopardi also discussed how when a family members passes away, parents were confronted with the task of delivering the news to their children. She highlighted that honest, age-appropriate language and reassurance were important.

Children need to be given basic information on how the human body works, she said; for example, that once a person was dead, they would no longer feel pain or sadness, and that the body was not working anymore and thus would not move or do any of the things that it used to do. It was important to avoid using words such as “passed away” or “left us”, she noted.

Creating a supportive environment where children can approach parents and ask questions is vital, Azzopardi continued. She also said that feelings of disbelief were normal, especially since children tend to experience grief in spurts as they learn to cope with their feelings.

Ultimately, grief was not something that one recovers from, but something one learns to live with. The experience of loss can be life-changing and by acknowledging the loss, we can learn to find meaning amid the pain, Azzopardi concluded.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.