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Norman M.
Norman M., Principal psychotherapist in private practice. Newspaper contributor, over 2000 satisfied clients on JA
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2568
Experience:  ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), ECP, UKCP Registered.
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Hi, I lost my sister through cancer when I was 16. It is going

Resolved Question:

Hi, I lost my sister through cancer when I was 16. It is going to be the 10 year aniversary soon and I feel worse in some ways. I blame myself for not being there for her and things. I received counselling for almost a year, 5 years ago which helped but I was wondering if phychiatry would be more suitable?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Norman M. replied 5 years ago.

What you are experiencing is, sadly, very common. Things always seem to get worse around anniversaries, don't they?

In truth, I would not suggest that you see a psychiatrist. It would be much more beneficial to have a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

CBT is based on the fact that what we think in any given situation generates beliefs about, and reactions to that situation, and also causes the behaviour and feelings which flow from those beliefs and reactions.

These ‘automatic thoughts’ are so fast that generally, we are unaware that we have even had them. We call them ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) for short.

If the pattern of thinking we use, or our beliefs about our situation are even slightly distorted,

the resulting emotions and actions that flow from them can be extremely negative and unhelpful. The object of CBT is to identify these ‘automatic thoughts’ then to re-adjust our thoughts and beliefs so that they are entirely realistic and correspond to the realities of our lives, and that therefore, the resulting emotions, feelings and actions we have will be more useful and helpful.

Cognitive therapists do not usually interpret or seek for unconscious motivations but bring cognitions and beliefs into the current focus of attention and through guided discovery encourage clients to gently re-evaluate their thinking.

Therapy is not seen as something “done to” the client. CBT is not about trying to prove a client wrong and the therapist right, or getting into unhelpful debates. Through collaboration, questioning and re-evaluating their views, clients come to see for themselves that there are alternatives and that they can change.

Clients try things out in between therapy sessions, putting what has been learned into practice, learning how therapy translates into real life improvement.

Please visit this website for much more detailed information on CBT:

If you cannot afford to see a therapist, there are good free CBT based self-help resources here:

Also, there is a book called ”Feeling good - the new mood therapy” by Dr. David Burns. It has a hand book which gives you practical exercises to work through and further instructions on how to better use CBT. I really do recommend it.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook for Dummies By Rhena Branch, Rob Willson is also pretty good.

You might also find it useful to read through these notes on bereavement.

For many of us, the loss of a loved one is our ultimate fear come true. Your bereavement is unique to you - no-one really knows the depth of your feelings, and because we are all different, we react differently to bereavement, and we all grieve differently. There is no right or wrong way - there is just your way.

However, there are some threads of emotion that are common to almost everyone at a time like this.

Disbelief. - It can take quite some time to accept that the loved one has died. People don't want to believe it, and indeed, some times they cannot, at first

Loss. The loss of the person you loved, your togetherness, friendship, hopes, closeness, their love, their friendship, intimacy and hopes often brings with it a devastating feeling of sadness

Guilt and regret. Often, we regret hurtful things we may have said or done, the missed chances of saying ‘I love you’ and the things we always meant to do. You may feel bad about the feelings of anger you may be going through, too.

Injustice. Why did they have to die! Why did this have to happen to me? It's not fair! Why did God let this happen?

Depression. Feeling low is a natural part of the mourning process and sometimes, it leads on to real depression. You might become withdrawn, lose interest in life and feel that there's no point in going on.

Relief. If the loved one has died after, perhaps, a long and painful illness, you might experience a feeling of relief – and this too can bring problems of guilt about just accepting that feeling.

Anger. You might feel angry with the world or with people for being unable to cure the illness, not understanding your loss, saying thoughtless things and even, just for being alive! Sometimes people feel angry with the dead person for abandoning them and leaving them behind to hurt – this is often one of the most difficult problems to deal with.

Fear of the future. You might feel lonely and afraid, not knowing what the future might be like, and having to adjust to a totally different way of life. It can be a very lonely time, and often, people feel that others can possibly understand your loss. Sometimes, too, it feels as if nobody cares anyway.

Every single one of these feelings is a perfectly normal part of grief, and it can feel as if they will go on forever. The truth is, they won't. Every single one, can, with time and understanding, be dealt with.

For many people, just being able to talk about their loss, being able to share there feelings and experience in a safe, non-judgemental place is the start of healing the pain. It can be so difficult to do this even with family and friends, partly because of their personal involvement, and to tell the truth, because it often makes them feel uncomfortable and helpless.

Bereavement counselling can help people come to terms with their loss , and allow them to move forward on their journey. It can be a long journey, but eventually you will start to live again. A different life, perhaps, but a good one.

Best wishes,


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