What is grief?
Grief is a reaction to loss. Although grief is primarily connected to the sense of loss experienced through the death of a loved one, grief is also experienced through significant life events such as divorce, loss of a pet, loss of physical capacity secondary to a serious injury, watching a loved one decline secondary to Alzheimer’s, receiving a cancer diagnosis, moving from one place to another or having a child go to college.
Losing a loved one, especially a spouse, is one of the hardest experiences.
While grief may encompass feelings of denial, anger, bargaining and depression, these emotions are neither predictable nor all encompassing. Feelings such as longing, loneliness, resentment and jealousy are not uncommon in the grieving process. Grief takes many forms and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to grieving.
Grief is experienced in many ways- emotionally, physically, cognitively and spiritually. Grief is the day to day experience of the loss and how life is forever altered as a result.
How is loss experienced?
Our physical bodies experience the impact of grief. From weight changes, to changes in appetite, flare-ups with chronic health issues and sickness, our bodies physically ride the waves of our emotional and cognitive response to grief.
Do you feel like you’re going crazy?
Guess what, you’re normal! The most frequent expression I hear in my practice is, “I feel like I am going crazy,” followed by, “I feel like this is never going to end!”
One minute you may feel OKAY and the next minute feel overcome with a wave of sadness, anger or disbelief. Experiencing an array of uncontrolled and unexpected emotions is normal when grieving.
Are you having troubling thinking clearly? Are you more forgetful than usual? Maybe you find you mind is racing or just devoid of thought? In grief it’s difficult to think clearly or even complete tasks. There’s so much going on how can you think clearly?
Spiritually, while some people report drawing closer to God when grieving, other people report drawing away from their faith and spirituality, especially if the loss is sudden or unexpected. Grief causes each of us to, in some way, re-evaluate our lives. Questioning religion and/or spirituality is a common part of the grief and bereavement process.
How can I find healing?
Just as there is no one way to grieve, there is no one way to find healing or peace after experiencing a loss.
Accepting your own emotional response as normal within the grieving process will help.
Accepting where you are today, without judgement, is also critical.
There is no timeline for grief. Period.
The loss of that person creates a void; that void is real and cannot be replaced.
In time, life will feel less chaotic. In time, and with the right support in place, the waves of loss, hurt and pain will feel less intense and less extreme.
Some believe that in our grief and mourning we find a way to relearn the world. The experience of grief is different for everyone, but it is possible to get through grief. Therapy can’t bring your loved one back, but it can help make the experience approachable.
Acceptance of the loss doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten about your loved one or that you love or miss him/her less.
Acceptance of the loss is an acknowledgement that your life is different now, and that your life before the loss and life after can both have meaning.
Are you ready to talk about your grief?
If you are here today because the pain from your loss feels disabling, consider seeking grief counseling.
If you are engaging in self-destructive behavior such as using drugs, drinking alcohol or gambling to cope through loss, contact a grief counselor or mental health professional without hesitation.
If you are thinking of harming yourself or someone else, seek immediate help by calling 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you do not feel ready for grief counseling, but would like to connect with other people who are also mourning, there is a great online community ready to receive you here. In connecting with others, you will feel less isolated and more supported. I welcome you to this online support network where you will find a host of resources, tools and emotional support.
If you are ready for grief counseling, I welcome you to my practice and you can schedule an appointment here.