Grief and Lack of Control

When something happens beyond our control we often find ourselves re-evaluating our entire understanding of the world and our role within it. We can feel helpless and vulnerable…..and we don’t like it.

Experiencing a loss or significant change, can challenge our assumptions on life and can place us in a position where we are forced to face realities that we had previously been happy to ignore.

Many people will evaluate their own situation and say ” I hate feeling like I don’t have control”  and in an effort to reduce future pain they will attempt to control their emotions, their environment and the safety and health of their family and friends. The more they try and control the more specific their expectations and the more room for error and disappointment….because we can’t control the bad away.

Others feel that they have no ability to exert influence on their environment, to control things that happen to them or to manage their intense emotions. In essence they passively give up because they’ve learned from their experiences that bad things happen regardless of their actions. They stop trying to escape the pain, stop looking for solutions and give up on efforts to cope the overall situation.

So,  what do you do if you can’t control the world and giving up just isn’t an option? Perhaps the best thing you can do is meet somewhere in the middle by identifying the things you can’t control and then focusing on the things you can.

One thing you can generally control is yourself, even though the intense feelings have a tricky way of making you feel like you can’t.  You may have to work harder than you’re used to in order to impact your thoughts, attitudes and behaviours…..but you can do it. Even if it is incrementally over time and even if you have to seek outside help to get there….you can do it.


In counselling we can look at things within your control, such as:

  • Your Efforts to Control – if you’re someone who feels as though you need to control everything and everyone you can work on letting go of this tendency. Looking at the uncertainty, risk, and unpredictability as well as the anxiety that this may bring we can help to find solutions that enable you to feel free.
  • Your Outlook – When everything is out of our control, the one thing we can control is our own internal mental life. No matter what life steals from you, your thoughts and attitudes are always yours. We can help you decide how to find meaning in life after change.
  • Your Support System – Many people think of this as friends and family and that we can’t control how they support us but how about looking at how you can work on a few things relevant to your support system.
    • We can work on utilising your support effectively
    • We can work on asking for help and accepting help
    • We can work on spotting emotional manipulation in your support system
    • We can work on local community resources
  • Your Continued Bond – if your control is a result of the loss of a loved one you may be feeling helpless in knowing how to keep their memory alive. We can help in recognising the ongoing role they play in your day-to-day life.

These are a few of the ways we can take back control when we feel we are out of control. Sometimes in the dark it is just about finding the person with the torch.